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The Reliability and Characteristics of the Brief Syntactic Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018



Linguistic analysis is of great potential benefit to psychiatry as a research and assessment tool, but the skill and time it demands means that it has not been widely used. This paper describes a much simplified form of syntactic analysis.


A detailed protocol for the Brief Syntactic Analysis (BSA) was written, based on earlier work by Morice and Ingram. Three psychiatrists were trained in its use, and inter-rater reliability established through independent ratings of 12 transcripts taken from a mixed group of psychiatric patients and a group of non-psychiatric controls. Concurrent reliability of the BSA against the Morice and Ingram analysis was established by comparing measures from the two methods on 16 transcripts of mixed patients.


There were high levels of agreement between the three psychiatrists and between the BSA and the Morice and Ingram analysis, although one-way ANOVA indicated that for some variables there were small but statistically significant absolute differences between the two. The reasons for this were discussed. A principal components analysis confirmed the presence of three factors corresponding closely to the three families of linguistic variables.


The results indicate that psychiatrists can be trained to use a syntactic analysis with high levels of agreement. The BSA, which takes much less time to complete, produces measures that are comparable with the original analysis from which it was derived.

Research Article
Copyright © 1996 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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