No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article14 Dec 2020

Factor Analysis of Spontaneous Speech in Aphasia


    Spontaneous speech tasks are critically important for characterizing spoken language production deficits in aphasia and for assessing the impact of therapy. The utility of such tasks arises from the complex interaction of linguistic demands (word retrieval, sentence formulation, articulation). However, this complexity also makes spontaneous speech hugely variable and difficult to assess. The current study aimed to simplify the problem by identifying latent factors underlying performance in spontaneous speech in aphasia. The ecological validity of the factors was examined by examining how well the factor structures corresponded to traditionally defined aphasia subtypes.


    A factor analysis was conducted on 17 microlinguistic measures of narratives from 274 individuals with aphasia in AphasiaBank. The resulting factor scores were compared across aphasia subtypes. Supervised (linear discriminant analysis) and unsupervised (latent profile analysis) classification techniques were then conducted on the factor scores and the solutions compared to traditional aphasia subtypes.


    Six factors were identified. Two reflected aspects of fluency, one at the phrase level (Phrase Building) and one at the narrative level (Narrative Productivity). Two other factors reflected the accuracy of productions, one at the word level (Semantic Anomaly) and one at the utterance level (Grammatical Error). The other two factors reflected the complexity of sentence structures (Grammatical Complexity) and the use of repair behaviors (Repair), respectively. Linear discriminant analyses showed that only about two thirds of speakers were classified correctly and that misclassifications were similar to disagreements between clinical diagnoses. The most accurately diagnosed syndromes were the largest groups—Broca's and anomic aphasia. The latent profile analysis also generated profiles similar to Broca's and anomic aphasia but separated some subtypes according to severity.


    The factor solution and the classification analyses reflected broad patterns of spontaneous speech performance in a large and representative sample of individuals with aphasia. However, such data-driven approaches present a simplified picture of aphasia patterns, much as traditional syndrome categories do. To ensure ecological validity, a hybrid approach is recommended, balancing population-level analyses with examination of performance at the level of theoretically specified subgroups or individuals.

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