Accounting for forgetfulness in dementia interaction
Journal article by Jan Svennevig and Anne Marie Dalby Landmark in Linguistics Vanguard, published online June 22, 2019.
The article identifies and describes conversational practices used by persons with dementia and their interlocutors to account for the former’s lack of knowledge in cases where information about their personal experiences is made relevant and expectable at a specific point in a conversation. First, they may seek to normalize the lack of knowledge by claiming that it would be difficult for anyone to know or remember the information in question. Second, they may exceptionalize it by claiming that their cognitive or communicative impairment incidentally and temporarily disables them from accessing the information. Finally, they may justify their failure to provide information by claiming that it is not important, relevant or expectable that they should know. Such accounts dissociate the social character from the forgetfulness and thus constitute an attempt to avoid the loss of face associated with not remembering personal experiences. By specifying these conversational accounting practices, the study thus adds to existing knowledge on how participants handle the social sensitivity of typical dementia symptoms.