BACKGROUND : Bilingual aphasia forms a significant part of speech-language pathologists’ (SLP) caseload, globally, and specifically in South Africa. Few tools supporting clinical decision-making are available due to limited understanding of typical and disordered cross-linguistic processing (how the languages interact). Speech errors may provide insight about “hidden” bilingual mechanisms.
OBJECTIVES : To determine what speech errors can impart about cross-linguistic processing, as well as, associated language and impairment variables in Sepedi-English individuals with aphasia. METHOD : The case series included six participants, purposively selected from three rehabilitation sites in South Africa. Detailed language and clinical profiles were obtained. Participants performed a confrontation naming task in their most dominant (MDL) and less dominant language (LDL). Responses were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for overall accuracy and error type in MDL and LDL; verified by a Sepedi-speaking linguist and a qualified SLP. RESULTS : (1) No statistically significant differences in MDL-LDL naming accuracy were found, supporting recent literature of simultaneous inter-activation of both languages and shared word retrieval mechanisms. All types of speech errors occurred, and semantic errors were produced most frequently and consistently in each participant’s MDL and LDL. (2) Language proficiency, language recovery patterns, and aphasia type (Broca’s and Anomic) and severity (mild and/or moderate) appeared to be more strongly linked to cross-linguistic processing than Sepedi-English linguistic differences and age of acquisition of both languages. CONCLUSIONS : Participants with bilingual aphasia may use typical cross-linguistic and word retrieval mechanisms, concurring with current theories of bilingualism. Findings are preliminary, warranting investigations of other language tasks, modalities, pairs, and related variables.