Title of Project: Social Inclusion and the Impact of Voiceitt on Identity and Talk in Persons with Acquired Brain Injury

Reference: Horizon 2020 H2020-SMEInst-2016-2017 (H2020-SMEINST-2-2016-2017), Proposal: 779105 — Talkitt

Dates: July 2017-March 2019

Principal Investigator: Melissa  Moyer

Research team: Ignasi Clemente, Marta Giménez, Gema Rubio

Funding: 121.000,00 euros


Project Description

This sociolinguistic study of identity and talk addresses issues of communication as a key element for social inclusion of persons with acquired brain damage typically caused by traumatic injury, stroke, infection, or a brain tumor. The consequences of a sudden injury to the brain can affect in different ways a person’s ability to negotiate meanings through talk and hence the manner they see their new selves, as well as how they are perceived and categorized by others. The present project contributes to the incipient research on brain damage from a qualitative sociolinguistic approach that complements the extensive research done from a clinical and an experimental psycholinguistic perspective. The adoption of ethnographic methods is key for generating in depth knowledge about the embodied experience of acquired brain damage and how family, medical professionals and caretakers, as well as society in general, interact with persons whose communication skills have been impaired. The study includes ten adult participants of a different age, gender and educational background who have been medically diagnosed with dysarthria, resulting from a traumatic brain injury or a stroke within the past five years. The linguistic features of dysarthria may include difficulties in both understanding and producing intelligible speech that can be attributed to lessened muscle control by the brain. An impairment in communication skills also affects how a brain injured individual can negotiate their identity under their new circumstances. The expected results of this study will shed new light on how communication in persons with acquired brain damage is carried out through a variety of modalities and means that include the articulation of sounds and utterances, the use of gestures, and writing, as well as the recruitment of third persons such as a family member or a caretaker, to negotiate meanings and to construct new ways of presenting oneself and interacting with others. In order to improve the inclusion in Catalan society of brain damaged persons with a motor based speech impairment it is necessary to focus on language and the social contexts in which their communication is embedded. The practical applications of the knowledge generated in this study serve (a) to make available specific communicative guidelines for speech impaired persons and their interlocutors (mostly professionals, caretakers and families); (b) to raise social awareness and acceptability of functional diversity involving language; (c) to provide training for professionals working with persons with dysarthria; (d) to facilitate the construction of applications (for smart phones and tablets) to enhance speech in real time and improve their reliability; and (e) to increase academic knowledge on sociolinguistic approaches to communication in persons with acquired brain injury.