Analysis of conversational topic shifts: a multiple case study.
Investigation into the natural conversational discourse of patients with Dementia of the Alzheimer Type has received minimal attention, in part due to the inherent methodological problems. There are no satisfactory theoretical models of conversation; existing global checklists give minimal information on meaning relationships and analysis of conversation does not lend itself to group studies. The present study offered an initial example of how meaning relationships, expressed through topic shifting behavior, can be described in DAT and normal elderly subjects in natural conversational discourse. Categorization of topic units was done in an attempt to describe general phenomena, type of shift, reason for shift, and contextual relationship. Although very little differences were visually observed in the general categories, some convergence of data were observed in other topic shift categories. Discussion of the results in relation to a discourse processing model is presented.