Clinical Pragmatics

Authored by: Louise Cummings

The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415531412
eBook ISBN: 9781315668925
Adobe ISBN:


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For nearly forty years, clinicians and researchers have attempted to characterise a range of communicative impairments in the pragmatics of language. The management of these impairments, which include verbal and nonverbal behaviours such as a failure to comprehend non-literal utterances, to contribute relevant utterances to a conversational exchange and to use gesture appropriately, has resulted in a rapid expansion of the nascent discipline of clinical pragmatics (Cummings 2013). Although it has been argued elsewhere that this expansion has not always brought about significant gains (see Cummings 2007, 2009 for discussion), the focus of the current chapter will be less a critical assessment of the field’s achievements, and more an overview of the diverse work of this growing discipline. That diversity includes research in a number of areas such as the characterisation, assessment and treatment of pragmatic disorders. To be performed reliably, the characterisation of pragmatic disorders requires clinicians who are well versed in the concepts of pragmatics and in their application to a range of clinical conditions. An accurate identification of pragmatic impairments is also the basis of the successful assessment and treatment of these disorders. The diverse work which is undertaken in clinical pragmatics also includes theoretical developments. Some of these developments are driven by theoretical work in pragmatics itself. Others are the result of theoretical achievements in disciplines such as psychology that have been more or less successfully applied to the study of pragmatic disorders. While certain theoretical developments have yet to realise their full potential, other developments (e.g. theory of mind) have fundamentally transformed the way in which we conceive of pragmatic disorders.

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