Measuring pragmatic competence of discourse output among Chinese-speaking individuals with traumatic brain injury

Anthony Pak-Hin Kong, Dustin Kai-Yan Lau, Daisy Ho-Ying Lai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Objective: Discourse analysis is one of the clinical methods commonly used to assess the language ability of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, the majority of published analytic frameworks are not geared for highlighting the pragmatic aspect of discourse deficits in acquired language disorders, except for those designed for quantifying conversational samples. This study aimed to examine how pragmatic competence is impaired and reflected in spoken monologues in Chinese speakers with TBI. Methods: Discourse samples of five tasks (personal narrative, storytelling, procedural, single- and sequential picture description) were elicited from ten TBI survivors and their controls. Each discourse sample was measured using 16 indices (e.g., number of informative words, percentage of local/global coherence errors, repeated words or phrases) that corresponded to the four Gricean maxims. Twenty-five naïve Chinese speakers were also recruited to perform perceptual rating of the quality of all 50 TBI audio files (five discourse samples per TBI participant), in terms of erroneous/inaccurate information, adequacy of amount of information given, as well as degree of organization and clarity. Results: The maxim of quantity best predicted TBI’s pragmatic impairments. Naïve listeners’ perception of pragmatics deficits correlated to measures on total and informative words, as well as number and length of terminable units. Clinically, personal narrative and storytelling tasks could better elicit violations in pragmatics. Conclusion: Applying Gricean maxims in monologic oral narratives could capture the hallmark underlying pragmatic problems in TBI. This may help provide an additional approach of clinically assessing social communications in and subsequent management of TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-678
Number of pages19
JournalBrain Impairment
Issue number3
Early online date5 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2023


  • Chinese
  • Gricean maxims
  • discourse
  • pragmatics
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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