Skip to main content Accessibility help

Communication behaviors associated with successful conversation in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia

  • Cathleen Taylor-Rubin (a1) (a2) (a3), Karen Croot (a3) (a4), Emma Power (a3) (a5), Sharon A. Savage (a6), John R. Hodges (a7) and Leanne Togher (a3) (a5)...



Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) affects a range of language and cognitive domains that impact on conversation. Little is known about conversation breakdown in the semantic variant of PPA (svPPA, also known as semantic dementia). This study investigates conversation of people with svPPA.


Dyadic conversations about everyday activities between seven individuals with svPPA and their partners, and seven control pairs were video recorded and transcribed. Number of words, turns, and length of turns were measured. Trouble-indicating behaviors (TIBs) and repair behaviors were categorized and identified as successful or not for each participant in each dyad.


In general, individuals with svPPA were active participants in conversation, taking an equal proportion of turns, but indicating a great deal of more trouble in conversation, shown by the significantly higher number of TIBs than evidenced by partners or control participants. TIBs were interactive (asking for confirmation with a shorter repetition of the original utterance or a repetition which included a request for specific information) and non-interactive (such as failing to take up or continue the topic or a minimal response) and unlike those previously reported for people with other PPA variants and dementia of the Alzheimer type. Communication behaviors of the partner were critical to conversational success.


Examination of trouble and repair in 10-min conversations of individuals with svPPA and their important communication partners has potential to inform speech pathology interventions to enhance successful conversation, in svPPA and should be an integral part of the comprehensive care plan.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Cathleen Taylor-Rubin, Speech Pathology Department, War Memorial Hospital, 125 Birrell Street, Waverley, Australia. Phone: +61 418750657. Email:


Hide All
Boles, L. and Bombard, T. (1998). Conversational discourse analysis: appropriate and useful sample size. Aphasiology, 12, 547560.
Ferguson, A. (1992). Interpersonal aspects of aphasic communication. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 7, 277294.
Ferguson, A. (1994). The influence of aphasia, familiarity and activity on conversational repair. Aphasiology, 8, 143157.
Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E. and McHugh, P. R. (1975). Mini-mental state. A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research 12, 189198.
Gorno-Tempini, M. L. et al. (2011). Classification of primary progressive aphasia and its variants. Neurology, 76, 19.
Herbert, R., Best, W., Hickin, J., Howard, D. and Osborne, F. (2008). Measuring lexical retrieval in aphasic conversation: reliability of a quantitative approach. Aphasiology, 22, 184203.
Hodges, J. R. and Patterson, K. (2007). Semantic dementia: a unique clinicopathological syndrome. The Lancet Neurology, 6, 10041014. doi:
Hsieh, S., Schubert, S., Hoon, C., Mioshi, E. and Hodges, J. R. (2013). Validation of the Addenbrooke's cognitive examination III in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 36, 242250.
Kindell, J., Sage, K. and Cruice, M., (2015). Supporting communication in semantic dementia: clinical consensus from expert practitioners. Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, 16, 153164.
Kindell, J., Sage, K., Keady, J. and Wilkinson, R. (2013). Adapting to conversation with semantic dementia: using enactment as a compensatory strategy in everyday social interaction. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 48, 497507. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12023.
Knibb, J. A., Woollams, A. M., Hodges, J. R. and Patterson, K. (2009). Making sense of progressive non-fluent aphasia: an analysis of conversational speech. Brain, 132, 27342746. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp207.
Kortte, K. B. and Rogalski, E. J. (2013). Behavioural interventions for enhancing life participation in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and primary progressive aphasia. International Review of Psychiatry, 25, 237245. doi:
Mesulam, M-M. (1982). Slowly progressive aphasia without generalized dementia. Annals of Neurology, 11, 592598.
Meteyard, L. and Patterson, K. (2009). The relation between content and structure in language production: an analysis of speech errors in semantic dementia. Brain and Language, 110, 121134. doi:
Mion, M. et al. (2010). What the left and right anterior fusiform gyri tell us about semantic memory. Brain, 133, 32563268. doi: 10.1093/brain/awq272.
Mioshi, E. et al. (2013). The impact of dementia severity on caregiver burden in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders; 27, 6873.
Mioshi, E., Dawson, K., Mitchell, J., Arnold, R.J. and Hodges, J. R. (2006). The Addenbrooke's cognitive examination revised (ACE-R): a brief cognitive test battery for dementia screening. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21, 10781085.
Perkins, L., Whitworth, A. and Lesser, R. (1998). Conversing in dementia: a conversation analytic approach. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 11, 3353.
Sapolsky, D., Domoto-Reilly, K., Negreira, A., Brickhouse, M., McGinnis, S. and Dickerson, B. (2011). Monitoring progression of primary progressive aphasia: current approaches and future directions. Neurodegenerative Disease Management, 1, 4355.
Savage, S., Hsieh, S., Leslie, F., Foxe, D., Piguet, O. and Hodges, J. R. (2013). Distinguishing subtypes in primary progressive aphasia: application of the Sydney language battery', Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 35, 208218. doi:
Simmons-Mackie, N. and Kagan, A. (1999). Communication strategies used by ‘good’ versus ‘poor’ speaking partners of individuals with aphasia. Aphasiology, 13, 807820. doi: 10.1080/026870399401894.
Taylor, C., Croot, K., Power, E., Savage, S. A., Hodges, J. R. and Togher, L. (2014). Trouble and repair during conversations of people with primary progressive aphasia. Aphasiology, 28, 10691091. doi:10.1080/02687038.2014.930411.
Taylor, C., Miles Kingma, R., Croot, K. and Nickels, L. (2009). Speech pathology services for primary progressive aphasia: exploring an emerging area of practice. Aphasiology, 23, 161174.
Togher, L., McDonald, S., Tate, R., Power, E., Ylvisaker, M. and Rietdijk, R. (2002–2015). TBI Express Partner Training. Available at:; last accessed 10 March 2015.
Tombaugh, T. N. (2004). Trail making test A and B: normative data stratified by age and education. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 19, 203214.
Tombaugh, T. N., Kozak, J. and Rees, L. (1999). Normative data stratified by age and education for two measures of verbal fluency: FAS and animal naming. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 14, 167177.
Watson, C. M., Chenery, H. J. and Carter, M. S. (1999). Analysis of trouble and repair in the natural conversations of people with dementia of the Alzheimer's type. Aphasiology, 13, 195218.
Wilson, S. M. et al. (2010). Connected speech production in three variants of primary progressive aphasia. Brain, 133 (Pt 7), 20692088.
Wong, S., Anand, R., Chapman, S., Rackley, A. and Zientz, J. (2009). When nouns and verbs degrade: facilitating communication in semantic dementia. Aphasiology, 23, 286301.
Yap, B. W. and Sim, C. H. (2011). Comparisons of various types of normality tests. Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation, 81, 21412155. doi: 10.1080/00949655.2010.520163.


Communication behaviors associated with successful conversation in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia

  • Cathleen Taylor-Rubin (a1) (a2) (a3), Karen Croot (a3) (a4), Emma Power (a3) (a5), Sharon A. Savage (a6), John R. Hodges (a7) and Leanne Togher (a3) (a5)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed