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Therapy for naming difficulties in bilingual aphasia: which language benefits?

Croft, S., Marshall, J., Pring, T. & Hardwick, M. (2011). Therapy for naming difficulties in bilingual aphasia: which language benefits?. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 46(1), pp. 48-62. doi: 10.3109/13682822.2010.484845


Background: The majority of the world's population is bilingual. Yet, therapy studies involving bilingual people with aphasia are rare and have produced conflicting results. One recent study suggested that therapy can assist word retrieval in bilingual aphasia, with effects generalising to related words in the untreated language. However, this cross-linguistic generalisation only occurred into the person's stronger language (L1). While indicative, these findings were derived from just three participants, and only one received therapy in both languages.

Aims: This study addressed the following questions. Do bilingual people with aphasia respond to naming therapy techniques developed for the monolingual population? Do languages respond differently to therapy and, if so, are gains influenced by language dominance? Does cross-linguistic generalisation occur and does this depend on the therapy approach? Is cross-linguistic generalisation more likely following treatment in L2 or L1?

Methods & Procedures: The study involved five aphasic participants who were bilingual in English and Bengali. Testing showed that their severity and dominance patterns varied, so the study adopted a case series rather than a group design. Each person received two phases of naming therapy, one in Bengali and one in English. Each phase treated two groups of words with semantic and phonological tasks, respectively. The effects of therapy were measured with a picture-naming task involving both treated and untreated (control) items. This was administered in both languages on four occasions: two pre-therapy, one immediately post-therapy and one 4 weeks after therapy had ceased. Testing and therapy in Bengali was administered by bilingual co-workers.

Outcomes & Results: Four of the five participants made significant gains from at least one episode of therapy. Benefits arose in both languages and from both semantic and phonological tasks. There were three instances of cross-linguistic generalisation, which occurred when items had been treated in the person's dominant language using semantic tasks.

Conclusions & Implications: This study suggests that ‘typical’ naming treatments can be effective for some bilingual people with aphasia, with both L1 and L2 benefiting. It offers evidence of cross-linguistic generalisation, and suggests that this is most likely to arise from semantic therapy approaches. In contrast to some results in the academic literature, the direction of generalisation was from LI to L2. The theoretical implications of these findings are considered. Finally, the results support the use of bilingual co-workers in therapy delivery.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Croft, S., Marshall, J., Pring, T. and Hardwick, M. (2011), Therapy for naming difficulties in bilingual aphasia: which language benefits?. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46: 48–62, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving."
Publisher Keywords: aphasia; bilingualism; case series; speech-and-language therapy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
Text - Accepted Version
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