Spontaneous spatial information provided by dementia patients and elderly controls in narratives

Solveig Bosse


Patients diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (DAT) often show two symptoms early on: the inability to navigate space effectively and a deterioration of their language skills, especially on semantic tasks. In this work, I look at whether the inability to navigate space is reflected in the spontaneous speech of DAT patients. Through a corpus analysis of narratives by DAT and control participants, I investigate the hypothesis that DAT patients provide less spatial information than healthy controls (mirroring the decline of effective spatial reasoning in language production). This hypothesis was not supported for locative/stative descriptions using in, on, and at; both groups included this information equally often. However, significant differences between the groups were found for the inclusion of the spatial terms left and right as well directional/dynamic spatial information indicated by into, onto, from, and to. This difference between locative/stative and directional/dynamic spatial information has not previously been reported. I argue that it aligns with Chatterjee’s (2008) proposal of the relational features of spatial language and that these features can be differently affected in DAT patients, aligning it with the spatial navigation impairment in these participants.


spatial language; Alzheimer’s disease; direction; location

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v4i1.4463

Copyright (c) 2019 Solveig Bosse

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