chapter  7
Language breakdown and the construction of meaning
Linguistic frameworks for readings of dementia in literature
ByJoan Rahilly
Pages 18

This chapter explores the background to representations of language in dementia in contemporary literary fiction and non-fiction, from a perspective which draws upon work in clinical speech and language, neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics, and interactional discourse. The approach adopted here to literary representations of language in dementia relies on a number of cross-disciplinary methods and insights. With regard to literary models and practices of self- and other-manifestation, it is well-known that tensions emerge between narrative preoccupations that are either broadly mimetic or symbolic. In the clinical and diagnostic literature, there is growing recognition that the term is unhelpfully wide-ranging and potentially stigmatising given its literal associations with madness. In a broad sense, the task and purpose of representing language deterioration that occurs in dementia is no different to that involved in portraying non-standard language of any sort. There is general utility in representing broad spectra of language varieties for purposes of anchoring texts in particular regional, social and psychological environments.