The Scope of Clinical Linguistics

  • David Crystal
Part of the Disorders of Human Communication book series (DISORDERS, volume 3)


Clinical linguistics is the application of linguistic science to the study of communication disability, as encountered in clinical situations. Unfortunately, almost every term in this definition requires further discussion, in order to identify the orientation and scope of the subject.


Linguistic Theory Voice Quality Linguistic Analysis Speech Pathology Voice Disorder 


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  1. 1.
    The term is from Henry Sweet (cf. Henderson, 1971 ). For other discussions of the nature of phonetics and its relation to linguistics, see Robins (1971: 76 ff.).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Apparently“ is needed, for the definition of these terms in relation to the data of disability is not without controversy: for a personal view, see p. 196.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A knowledge of basic phonetic descriptive terminology and transcription is assumed in the present book. The above emphasis is not however intended to underestimate the considerable amount of theoretical and empirical innovation in contemporary phonetics. In fact, a book on “clinical phonetics” is very much needed, and might well be as large as this one. Amongst other things, it would include coverage of recent advances in instrumentation (e.g. in electropalatography, electromyography); the theory and practice of transcription (especially as applied to deviant speech); the study of phonation types; the study of articulation, and especially coarticulation, through the use of dynamic descriptive techniques; and the development of more sophisticated models of speech perception and production. For recent introductions, see O’Connor (1973), Fry (1977), Ladefoged (1975) and Catford (1977). See also Laver (1970), Lass (1976), Dalton and Hardcastle (1978: Ch. 2), Hardcastle and Roach (1981).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Robins ( 1971: Ch. 1), Crystal (1971: Ch. 3), Lyons (1968: Ch. 1 ).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For critical review, see Gleason (1965: Part I). This pedagogical trend should be distinguished from the philosophical tradition, well reviewed in Robins (1967), and propounded in support of a particular thesis by Chomsky (1966).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For example, Hall (1960), Fries (1952). For a general discussion, see Quirk (1968).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    As illustrated in the Warnock Report (H.M.S.O. 1978), for example.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The analogies between this and other areas of applied linguistics are discussed in Crystal (1981).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    See also Weigl and Bierwisch (1970: 12), Geschwind (1964: 157), and Katz (1964).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    For an account of this method of enquiry, and of semiotics as the study of “patterned human communication in all its modes”, see Sebeok, Hayes and Bateson (1964, Crystal (1969: Ch. 3), Lyons (1977: Ch. 2).Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    The main field to which this extension has been made is that of deaf signing, where recent studies are gradually bringing to light the structural and pragmatic complexity of the behaviour. See Schlesinger and Namir (1978).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    See especially Charles Hockett’s “design features” of language: Hockett (1958), Hockett and Altmann (1968); for further discussion, Lyons (1977: Ch. 3), Crystal (1975: Ch. 3).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    See for example the papers by Ostwald and Mahl and Schulze in Sebeok, Hayes and Bateson (1964); also Shapiro (1979). It follows from the account above that the contribution of linguistics to genuine communication disorders (i.e. disturbances in which other modes of communication are also involved) may be quite limited. For example, given the range of characteristics associated with autism, only some will be capable of elucidation using linguistic techniques (see further, p. 204 ).Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    There is an analogy, to a certain extent, in handwriting, which may be idiosyncratic—but as formal handwriting styles are often taught, the analogy is by no means exact. For further discussion of voice quality, see Crystal ( 1969: Ch. 3), Laver (1968), (1980), and Giles and Powesland (1975).Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Experimental studies of the psychological and neurological processes underlying these “performance» errors can make a contribution to our understanding of what happens in speech production (see, e.g. Laver 1970), but this kind of information is in principle different from the characterization of language as an abstract system for the communication of meaning; see further below, p. 18.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    See further Crystal 1979 a: 11 ff.; also Crystal, Fletcher and Garman 1976: 14 ff., where the limitations of selective commentary are discussed. The value of the clinical case presentation remains, but it needs to be carried out within an explicit theoretical framework, so that the inevitable comparisons can be made.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    For example, comparing French and English aphasics could help to indicate which of their difficulties are purely linguistic and which due to deeper cognitive deficits that cut across linguistic boundaries. For more on universals, see Lyons ( 1968: Ch. 8), Huddleston (1976: Ch. 13 ).Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    See Chomsky (1964), and for an introductory account Huddleston ( 1976: Ch. 1).Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    See de Saussure ( 1916: Ch. 3), Chomsky (1965: Ch: 1). There are certain differences between langue and competence which do not affect the present discussion. For a critique of Chomsky’s conception of competence, see Matthews (1979). For a useful discussion of the notion of idealization, see Lyons (1972). Several specific criticisms have been directed at the particular model of competence originally proposed by Chomsky, especially the conception of a syntactic deep structure; as this notion is no longer felt to be central by most generative linguists, it will not be further discussed here.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    See Crystal, Fletcher, and Garman (1976: 25 ff.), Crystal (1979a: 3), Rees (1971).Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    See the discussion in Crystal ( 1976: Ch. 3).Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    The equivalent notion for the study of the written language is graphology. Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    For an account of the medical vs. the behavioural approaches, see Crystal (1980: Ch. 2). For the notion of structural level, and the structuralist view of language as a system of interdependent categories, see Lyons (1968: Ch. 2), Lepschy (1970), Robins (1971: Ch. 1 ), Halliday, McIntosh and Strevens (1964).Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    The notion of “communicative competence” summarises one approach to the study of such variables—the term being a reaction against the restriction of linguistic theory to the analysis of structure in purely formal terms (as in the Chomskian notion of competence above). See Lyons (1977: Ch. 14), Gumperz and Hymes (1972).Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    See Trudgill (1974), Gumperz and Hymes (1972).Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    For an introductory account, see Clark and Clark (1977), Glucksberg and Danks (1975); see also Flores D’Arcais and Levelt (1970).Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    See Lyons (1968: 70 ff.), Robins (1971: 44 ff.). For further illustration, see pp. 146 ff. below. Cf. also Jakobson (1964), who used this basic idea to construct a typology of categories of aphasic impairment.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Crystal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Linguistic ScienceUniversity of ReadingGreat Britain

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