Language and Linguistics

What is clinical linguistics history disciplines application and future

Clinical linguistics

Clinical linguistics is a subdivision of applied linguistics that deals with the description, analysis and treatment of language disorders, especially the application of linguistic theory in the field of speech linguistic pathology . The study of the linguistic aspect of communication disorders is relevant to a broader understanding of language and linguistic theory.

The International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association is an unofficial organization of the field and was formed in 1991.The Journal of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics is a major scientific journal of the field and was founded by Martin J. Ball .

Clinical linguistics practitioners typically work in speech pathology or linguistics departments. They conduct research to improve the assessment, treatment and analysis of speech and language disorders, and offer insights into formal linguistic theories. While most clinical linguistics journals still focus only on English linguistics, there has been a movement towards comparative clinical linguistics in multiple languages.

History of clinical linguistics

The history of the study of communication disorders dates back to the ancient Greeks . However, modern clinical linguistics is largely rooted in the twentieth century, when the term “clinical linguistics” became more widespread in the 1970s, when it was used as the title of a book by the distinguished linguist David Crystal in 1981. The “father of clinical linguistics,” Krystal’s book Clinical Linguistics has become one of the most influential books in the field as this new discipline has been described in great detail.

The application of linguistic science to the analysis of speech and language disorders has always been necessary, but not well understood. Roman Yakobson , a Russian structural linguist, was one of the first to try to apply linguistic theory to the study of speech pathology . Published in 1941, his book Kindersprache, Aphasie und allgemeine Lautgesetze recorded his analysis of language use in language acquisition by children and adults with acquired aphasia . Although Jacobson’s book gained influence in the English-speaking world only after the publication of the translated version of Child language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals in 1968, its influence was felt particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, where changes in the approach to phonological research were adopted. , grammatical, semantic and other areas of language disorders. His observation that deviant sound patterns obey rules analogous to those of common language systems remains a guiding principle in clinical linguistics even today. In particular, the same approach was adopted by Kristall and his colleagues when developing a set of procedures for “profiling” the language.

Disciplines of clinical linguistics

These are the main disciplines of clinical linguistics:

Clinical phonetics

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies the sounds of human speech. Clinical phonetics includes the use of phonetics to describe speech differences and disorders, including information about speech sounds and perceptual skills used in a clinical setting.

Clinical phonology

Phonology is one area of ​​linguistics that deals with the systematic organization of sounds in spoken languages ​​and signs in sign languages. Unlike clinical phonetics, clinical phonology focuses on the application of phonology to interpret the sounds of speech in a particular language and how it works with phonemes .

Clinical prosody

In linguistics, prosody is associated with elements of speech that are not separate phonetic segments (vowels and consonants), but are properties of syllables and larger units of speech. Prosody is important for communicative functions such as expressing emotions or affective states.

Clinical morphology

Morphology is the study of words, their formation and their relationship to other words in the same language. It analyzes word structure and word parts such as stems, root words, prefixes and suffixes.

Clinical syntax

Syntax is a set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language, usually including word order. Each language has its own set of syntax rules, but all languages ​​have syntax in one form or another.

Clinical semantics

Semantics is the study of the interpretation of signs or symbols used by agents or communities in specific circumstances and contexts.

Clinical pragmatics

Pragmatics is a subdivision of linguistics and semiotics that studies the ways in which context influences meaning. This refers to the description and classification of pragmatic disorders, their explanation in terms of various pragmatic, linguistic, cognitive and neurological theories, as well as their assessment and treatment.

Clinical discourse

In corpus linguistics, discourse refers to the study of a language expressed in corpuses (samples) of “real world” text, the codified language of a field of study, or a statement that defines the connections between language, structure, and agency.

Applications of clinical linguistics

Linguistic concepts and theories are applied to the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of language disorders. These theories and concepts are usually associated with psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Clinical linguists take the understanding of language and linguistic disciplines, as mentioned above, to explain language disorders and find approaches to their treatment. Crystal pointed out that the clinical application of linguistics is highly relational. In her book Clinical Linguistics, Crystal refers to many well-known disorders with linguistic knowledge. Here are some examples from his book:

Voice orders

includes sub- and supra- laryngeal settings involved in dysphonia ; syllabic and polysyllabic difference to account for the volume and timbre of the voice; the distinction between synchronic and diachronic should be used for a more recognizable voice quality; interaction of non-segmental phonetic and phonological variables (p. 192-193).

Cleft palate syndrome

phonological variables and utterances must be interpreted in terms of perception and production; distribution of segments in the utterance (p. 193).


the segmental phonetic level (taking into account lengthening, muscle tension disorders) can affect speech reproduction phonologically; smooth transition at the prosodic level (tempo, pause, etc.); semantic factors, including avoidance of certain lexical terms combined with grammatical structure between adult and child (p. 194).


understanding and reproducing speech requires non-segmental organization of speech involvement; The concepts of segment, feature, and process can aid in the analysis of phonological problems (p. 194).


requires repeated analysis in terms of segments, features and processes for phonological implementation; more serious cases will require an analysis of abnormalities in non-segmental phonology (p. 195).


a systematic analysis of segmental and non-segmental phonological organizations and phonetic abilities; semantics, grammatical structure, and sociolinguistic interaction studies are vital dimensions that cannot be neglected for the oral production and comprehension of the deaf (p. 195).

The future of clinical linguistics

Previous work by linguists such as Crystal has been applicable to a wide range of communication disorders at all linguistic levels. However, with the influx of new ideas from disciplines such as genetics , cognitive neuroscience, and neuroscience (among others), it is no longer enough to simply focus on the linguistic characteristics of a particular speech disorder.

In today’s context, one of the challenges of clinical linguistics involves identifying methods to combine knowledge in different fields to build a more holistic understanding. Another aspect that requires further work is the transformation of the general research conducted into effective tools of clinical practice.

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