Abstract

This case study adds a new dimension to the discourse on the authorship issue in facilitated communication. The linguistic structure produced by a young Finnish man with severe cerebral palsy was examined. Data are based on transcripts he produced from 1993 until 1996 after facilitated communication had been introduced to him. In the data analysis, as explicit criteria for his idiosyncrasies, we used patterns typical of children acquiring Finnish as their first language and those found in normal slips of the tongue, acquired aphasia, and specific language impairment. Based on the analysis (i.e. the idiosyncrasy and agrammaticality of word-forms and sentences), we strongly suggest that his output can hardly be a product of any other speaker of Finnish, including that of his facilitators.

Editor in charge: Dianne Ferguson

Over the last half a decade, a method of communication called facilitated communication has generated much excitement and controversy in the field of developmental disabilities. The term was first employed in the 1970s by Crossley, an Australian educator (Crossley & McDonald, 1980) when she used the method to assist people with cerebral palsy overcome problems using letter and language boards. In the 1980s, she used the same method with persons who were diagnosed with autism (Biklen, 1990). Later, Crossley (1992) defined the method as a training strategy for “teaching the hand skills needed to use communication aids effectively to individuals whose severe communication impairment (SCI) is compounded by impaired hand function” (p. 29). In other studies the method has been referred to as “an augmentative procedure whereby literacy skills among non-speaking people, especially those with autism, are promoted” (Smith Myles & Simpson, 1994, p. 208), “as a procedure in which a facilitator uses some degree of physical assistance to help a client spell out messages by touching letters on a letter display” (Montee, Miltenberger, & Wittrock, 1995, p. 189), as “a training technique by which a facilitator provides physical and other supports to assist a person who has significant communication disorder to point to objects, pictures, printed letters and words, or to a keyboard in order to communicate his or her thoughts more effectively” (Cardinal, Hanson, & Wakeham, 1996, p. 231). Biklen (1990) described the method not as a uniform approach to teaching and supporting communication that can be used with each person but, rather, as a range of skills (e.g., physical and emotional support, use of set work) that the facilitator needs to apply during the facilitation process.

Because facilitated communication is a controversial means of communication assistance, it has evoked a large number of studies and ongoing debate on its validity. The root of the controversy is the question of the degree to which the improved communication patterns originate from the person with the disability or from the facilitator. The results of the research projects until now have been diverse. The findings of the many controlled experimental studies, in particular, have been very critical and have provided little or no evidence that facilitated communication fosters communication by people with disabilities (Eberlin, McConnachie, Ibel, & Volpe, 1993; Hirshoren & Gregory, 1995; Klewe, 1993; Wheeler, Jacobson, Paglieri, & Schwartz, 1993). Yet, a number of other investigators have demonstrated that individuals could also pass their own messages through facilitated communication (Ogletree, Hamtil, Solberg, & Scoby-Schmelzle, 1993; Simon, Toll, & Whitehair, 1994; Vazquez, 1994).

Because the emphasis of the debate on facilitated communication has been focused on the testing of the method as a means of transferring messages between the assisted person and his or her environment, there has been very little research on facilitated communication as one of many means of communication (Schubert, 1997) or any grammatical inquiry into the language produced in the process of facilitation by the person with severe communication problems. Yet, as some researchers have pointed out, the clarification of the conflicting information concerning facilitated communication requires research in which the complexity of the communication process is examined and considered (Duchan, 1993; Ferguson & Horner, 1994); and grammar, to be sure, is the kernel of our linguistic communication. The same researchers further recommended that areas such as the issue of authorship, the complexity of communication process, the nature of evidence, and the unusual structure (grammar) and content (meaning) of the written language produced by the person who is facilitated need to be explored more thoroughly. We could not agree more and, thus, designed a study of the linguistic patterns peculiar to one Finnish adult, Tuomas, and his communication.

Tuomas

Tuomas was a 21-year-old Finnish man with severe motor control and communication problems. At the age of 5 months, he was diagnosed as having severe cerebral palsy (dystonia tetraplegia) and brain damage, a diagnosis that did not give his parents much hope for his future. According to his doctors, Tuomas was not expected to be able to learn to recognize even his own parents. Now, 21 years later, he is a promising young author who is living independently in a supportive environment and is working on his second book. Due to his severe impairments, his ability to control movements is very limited, and he needs assistance with most of his daily activities (e.g., eating, washing, and dressing). It is also extremely hard for him to move any part of his body intentionally if his position is not optimal for a particular type of movement. Yet, even in an optimal position, involuntary movements often prevent him from continuing even such typically automatic activities as swallowing and biting.

Due to Tuomas's severe motor control problems, his ability to communicate orally is very limited. Until the facilitated communication method was introduced, his main means of communication were a few spoken words (e.g., äiti [mother], arkku for Markku—his father's first name, ope [teacher]) and some facial expressions (nodding his head for yes, shooting up his eyes for no). Yet, as his mother pointed out, sometimes it was hard to know whether his movements (e.g., nodding) were intended as communication or caused by compulsive movements. His parents, however, were convinced that he could perform and understand much more than he was able to express, and they kept treating him as a capable child by talking to him, taking him to places, and reading books to him. In his school years pictures and bliss symbols were introduced, but they were used mainly for such simple tasks as selection of food or drink or selection of a yes or no answer.

Based on several interviews with his mother and the case records by neurologists, Tuomas seemed to have normal hearing and intention, even though his level of functioning in most activities was very limited. However, due to his multiple impairments testing of his abilities and skills was difficult; as a result, for example, his IQ could not be successfully assessed. Therefore, he was diagnosed as having retardatio mentalis. After he started using facilitated communication (in November 1993), this diagnosis was no longer used in his case records.

In 1993, the facilitated communication method was introduced to Tuomas by his speech therapist. During the first weeks after he had been acquainted with the new method, he started to type single-word expressions while the facilitators, his mother or the speech therapist, supported him from his palm and isolated his index finger for pointing at the relevant target on the letter or keyboard. In a few weeks, however, he started to type full sentences, and some unique characteristics of his written language (e.g., word order and choice of expressions) started to appear. In about a year, the physical support was moved from the palm to his elbow. He also started to type with two other people who were familiar to him. Over the years, Tuomas became more confident with his typing and was able to type with all of his permanent assistants. However, he was not able to write with new people who happened to be willing to assist him. Thus, he was not able to type if the facilitator did not know how to facilitate appropriately. According to Tuomas (as translated by us): “A good facilitator is a caring person who makes the facilitation situation safe and who does not give even the slightest guidance during writing even though she or he might disagree with the writer” (Alatalo, 1999, pp. 49–50).

Currently, facilitated communication is the main means of communication for Tuomas. He types with several people on a regular basis and still needs to be supported from his elbow while writing. A portable Light Writer communicator is his main means for typing in everyday life situations. However, when he wants to write longer texts and messages, he prefers to use a computer. After he finished the comprehensive school in a special class for students with severe mental retardation in 1994, he studied for 2 years in a special vocational school for students with cerebral palsy. In this school he took courses in writing, history, music, and English. In the fall of 1997, he began writing a book, an autobiography about his life as a person with severe impairments. Meanwhile, he also attended some high school courses and summer seminars for writers. The book Olen ja saan sanoa [I exist and I am allowed tell] (203 pages) was published by WSOY, a major commercial publisher in Finland, in April 1999.

Besides allowing Tuomas to communicate, facilitated communication has also had an impact on him as a person. According to his mother, he is now able to concentrate on tasks and control his behavior better than before. He seems to be a calmer and happier person, exhibiting less inappropriate behavior, such as yelling and screaming. As Tuomas (Alatalo, 1999) himself wrote: “My whole existence as a person has become possible through writing” (p. 161).

Data

The data for the present study are based on transcripts that Tuomas produced in everyday life situations over 3 years (November 1993 through June 1996) after his introduction to facilitated communication Thus, the data include both his first one-word expressions that he was able to type in the beginning and more complicated and sophisticated written outputs, such as full-length letters and conversations that he was able to type after having become more familiar with the method. In most cases Tuomas's mother was his facilitator during the writing process, but the data also include a few examples where the facilitator was either his speech therapist or his aide. All the data were written using a personal computer or a Light Writer. The slight writing errors, mostly letter additions, deletions, and metatheses, were corrected for the present exposition. The name of the facilitator and the date appear in the parentheses after each example. The case description is based on a 2-hour taped interview conducted with Tuomas's mother in September 1997 and on his case records obtained from neurologists and doctors.

Data Analysis

Our ultimate goal in conducting the present linguistic authorship analysis of Tuomas's production is to show that this output cannot be a product of adult speakers of Finnish. Our belief is based on the idiosyncrasy and agrammaticality of word forms and sentences as well as on the lexical peculiarities in the data. More specifically, the linguistic analysis is based on lexical, morphological, and syntactic aspects of data produced by Tuomas when he was between 15 and 18 years of age. The digitized material of that period comprises approximately 1,600 sentences that he wrote.

Our approach is qualitative because (a) quantification of free-form language data, covering the grammatical aspects surveyed here, would require a larger data base, and (b) the blatant idiosyncrasies, many of which are systematic (e.g., word-order abnormalities), as well as instances of agrammatic structures, provide substantial evidence for our argument that Tuomas is the author of these products. We stress that the staff members of the Joensuu Linguistics Department and their associates have considerable research experience in Finnish “slips of the tongue.” On the basis of this experience we would not expect to come across these type of errors as spontaneous slips of the tongue (or, rather, finger) in normal speakers (see, e.g., Niemi and Laine, 1997, and Niemi, in press).

Relevant Grammatical Aspects of Finnish

The following is a brief description of those aspects of Finnish that are needed in the perusal of our linguistic discussion (for a glossary of relevant terms, see Appendix A). For more extensive and/or theory-specific views of Finnish, readers are referred to such sources as Karlsson (1983), Vilkuna (1989), Holmberg and Nikanne (1993), and Branch (1987).

Morphology

Derivational morphology

In derivation (such as the use of prefixes and suffixes in English [e.g., nation plus al resulting in national and national plus ity, yielding nationality]), Finnish uses suffixes (alongside with a handful of borderline, theoretically disputable prefixal forms).

Inflectional morphology

Finnish nouns can be marked for number (singular and plural), case (14 productive), and possession:

(1) auto+i+ssa+ni

car+PLURAL+INESSIVE+my

in my cars

A finite verb in the active must exhibit tense and person, for example, (2) and (3), where (2) carries the unmarked present tense and (3) the past tense /i/.

(2) mene+n

go: PRESENT TENSE + PERSON

I go

(3) men+i+t

go+PAST+PERSON

you went

Clitics

Clitics in Finnish are bound words, most of which are appended to the last word of the first syntactic phrase of the sentence. The meanings of these clitics are usually pragmatic, discourse-related, or textual in nature. For instance -pA(s) often implies an explicit reversal of the other discussant's presupposition, such as in (4), where the canonical subject–verb–object order Pikku Anna+pa teki sen (for word order, see below) is more often than not modified into a subject–object–verb sequence.

(4) Pikku Anna+pa sen teki.

Little Anna+CLITIC it did

It was little Anna who did it (not, for example, Big John).

Although all permutations of the subject, verb, and object are allowed in the language, this type of clitic has to have the last word of the first phrase (here: little Anna) as its host. Thus, for instance, (5) would be ungrammatical. (The asterisk is used in linguistics to show ungrammaticality.)

* (5) Pikku+pa Anna teki sen (although there were two Annas, a little one and a big one).

Word Structure

Finnish simplex (nonderived, noncompound) words have the kind of word structure shown in Table 1.

Table 1

Morphological Structure of Finnish Words

Morphological Structure of Finnish Words
Morphological Structure of Finnish Words

The number of various morphological forms that a noun may have is relatively high, namely, close to 2,000. In the case of verbs, this figure is about 10-fold (Karlsson & Koskenniemi, 1985). If derived forms and compounds are included in this count, a single simplex noun or verb (root or base) may have a huge number of morphological environments (words) in which it is embedded.

Word Order

Although the word order in Finnish is grammatically free, the basic (canonical) order of subject (S), verb (V), and object (O) sentences is SVO (Hakulinen & Karlsson, 1979, Sulkala & Karjalainen, 1992). Thus, the Finnish equivalent to a basic sentence such as “Charles saw Mary” can emerge in all six linear variants (as seen below with approximate English translations; much of meaning depends on the context and stress and intonation). The final n in Mary is the accusative marker of Mary (cf. English he:him).

Charles näki Maryn. (canonical “neutral” variant)

Charles Maryn näki. “It was Charles that saw Mary”

Maryn näki Charles. “It was Mary that Charles saw”

Maryn Charles näki. “It was Mary that Charles saw”

Näki Charles Maryn. “Charles saw Mary” (marked, nonneutral variant)

Näki Maryn Charles. “Charles saw Mary” (marked, nonneutral variant)

Results

Clitic Errors

In (6) Tuomas places the clitic -pA in an incorrect position, that is, not on the first syntactic phrase, whereas (7) contains a superfluous amount of the clitic -kin, which renders the sentence difficult to comprehend (the date in the parentheses denotes the time of production, and the name indicates the facilitator).

(6) Minua täytyi+pä uudestaan mökillä uittaa. (October 1994, Hilkka)

I must+CLITIC anew at-summer cottage make-swim (passive)

for

Minua+pa täytyi uudestaan mökillä uittaa.

I+CLITIC must anew at-summer cottage make-swim.

It is the case that I had to be made swim again at the summer cottage.

(7) Niin+kin lukiossa+kin lomilla+kin sinull […] (February 1994, Sinikka)

Thus+CLITIC in-highschool+CLITIC on-vacations+CLITIC you […]

Inflectional Errors

Sentence (8) is an example of several instances where the roots of the derived words incorrectly assign the case-markers on their complements instead of the full-derived forms. It looks as if in these instances Tuomas's syntax may incorrectly access the internal structure of derived words (for words as syntactic islands, see, for example, Spencer, 1991).

(8) Hilkka intoilee […] järjestämise+en (March 1994, Hilkka)

Hilkka is-eager […] organizing+ILLATIVE

for

Hilkka intoilee […] järjestämise+stä

Hilkka is-eager […] organizing+ELATIVE

Hilkka is eager in organizing […].

In (9) the verb testa, test, requires the partitive, but testaaminen (testing) would require the genitive (cf. Jari testaa minu+a [Jari tests me] versus minun testaamiseni/testaaminen [my testing] where my may refer either to the agent or the undergoer). Note also that the undergoer minua is incorrectly the complement, and not the specifier of testaaminen. This may be another reflection of the problems that Tuomas exhibits with word order (see below).

(9) Jarin testaaminen minu+a tuntui tyhmältä […] (September 1994, Hilkka)

Jari's testing me felt stupid

for

Jarin minun testaaminen tuntui tyhmältä.

Jari's my testing felt stupid.

Object case-marking is quite complicated in Finnish. It is determined by, for example, the voice of the verb (active vs. passive) and aspect of the act referred to (see [10]).

(10) […] terapia joka uude+n laittee+n auttaa käyttämään (May 1995, Hilkka)

[…] therapy that new+ACCUSATIVE apparatus+ACCUSATIVE helps to-use (passive)

for

[…] terapia joka uut+ta laite+tta auttaa käytämään.

[…] therapy that new+PARTITIVE apparatus+PARTITIVE helps to-use

[…] therapy that helps one to use a/the new apparatus.

Similarly, the case marking of arguments seems to be sometimes difficult for him, see (11) and (12).

(11) […] koska se ei puhuttu ääneen. (July 1996, Hilkka)

[…] because it:NOMINATIVE not spoken:PASSIVE out-loud

for

[…] koska sitä/siitä ei puhuttu ääneen.

[…] because it:PARTITIVE/ELATIVE not spoken:PASSIVE out loud

[…] because it was not spoken out loud.

(12) Vielä+kö esi-isä+t uskotaan olevan apua. (April 1996, Hilkka)

Still+CLITIC forefather+NOMINATIVE PLURAL believe:PASSIVE to-be of help

for

Vieläkö esi-is+i+stä uskotaan olevan apua.

Still+CLITIC forefather+PLURAL+ELATIVE believe:PASSIVE to-be of-help

Do people still believe that our ancestors would be of any help?

(13) contains two infinitives, -mA (here -ma) and -minen (here -mise) and a reversed word order of their hosts practice and write

(13) […] taisi S. anoa […] apuvälinettä harjoitta+mise+ksi kirjoitta+ma+an (February 1996, Hilkka)

[…] could S. apply […] aid practise+INF+TRANSLATIVE write+INF+ILLATIVE

for

[…] taisi S. anoa […] apuvälinettä kirjoitta+mise+n harjoitta+mise+ksi

[…] could S. apply […] an aid for writing-practice

Word Order

Tuomas's syntax is characterized by the unusual positioning of the following constituents: (a) adverbs that tend to be topicalized (i.e., adverbs are brought to the beginning of the sentence), (b) verbs, and (c) matrix sentences that tend to be placed in the sentence final position. It is typical of any language to place the backgrounding elements at the beginning portion (topic/theme) of a sentence. Note that grammatically these sentences are correct because Finnish does allow for these positions. However, the placements are extremely odd in their textual context. There are dozens of instances of these odd word-order patterns among adverbs and verbs and half a dozen among matrix sentences. Some pertinent examples are given below. The Xs mark the most natural positions, and the constituents affected are in brackets [abc].

Odd topicalization of adverbs

Tuomas topicalized adverbs, although there was no need for that in their contexts (see [14] and [15], below).

(14) [Uteliaana] minä en jaksa X tyhmyyksiä kuunnella (May 1995, Hilkka)

[Curious] I do-not have-patience X stupid-things listen

I do not have the patience to be curious and listen to stupid things.

(15) [Yleensä pianolla] P. säestää oppilaiden mölinää X (April 1995, Hilkka)

[In-general on-piano] P. accompanies students' hollering X

In general, P. accompanies the students' hollering on a piano.

Sometimes Tuomas used word orders that are difficult to transform into canonical constituent orders, such as in (16), which needs more re-ordering than the movement of the topicalized adverbial phrase, and still in (16) the semantics is left somewhat open. Why does he use the specifying adverb juuri in this and many other similar sentences?

(16) [Juuri tyhmänä] minua L:lläkin pidetään.(September 1995, Hilkka)

for

L:lläkin minua pidetään juuri (?) tyhmänä

Even-at-L (institution) me regarded-as just stupid

Even at L they regard me as just (odd in Finnish) stupid.

Verb-Endedness of Sentences

The final positioning of verbs in Tuomas's output deals with verb forms of various types: the infinitives (see [17] and [18]), finite forms (19), participles (20), and simple and complex verb forms.

(17) äiti, haluaisin X nämä jutut enintään E.-ystävälleni

Mother, I-would-like X these things maximally to E.-my-friend

Mother, I would like to show these only to my friend E.

enkä muille [näyttää]. (January 1995, Hilkka)

and-not to-others [show].

and not anyone else.

(18) Ne eivät estä minua osaamasta X verraten hyvin asioista [nauttia]. (June 1995, Hilkka)

They do-not prevent me from-knowing X relatively well about-things

They do not prevent me from knowing how to enjoy things pretty well.

[enjoy: INFINITIVE]

(19) Mä X mukaan sinun kanssa laivaretkelle [haluan]. (February 1994, Hilkka)

I X along you with on-cruise [want].

' want to go on a cruise with you.

(20) E.-opettaja on X ystävällisen asian [tehnyt], […](January 1995, Hilkka)

Teacher E. has X friendly thing [done] […]

Teacher E. has done a nice thing […]

Final Position of Matrix Sentences

Linguists (and philosophers) often describe compound sentences (propositions) like the English “I permitted him to go” and “I promised him to go” as structures, here nontechnically described, like [I permitted] he go(es) and [I promised to him] I go, respectively. The bracketed sentences (propositions) govern their subordinate mates. These governing, superordinate sentences are called matrix sentences. The placement of the matrix sentences after the subordinate sentences in similar structures in Finnish is highly unlikely.

(21) X varsinkin nauraa itsellesi [sinun ainakin pitää osata] (August 1995, Hilkka)

X especially laugh at-yourself [you at-least must know].

At least you must know especially to laugh at yourself.

(22) X hyvin terveellisesti jouluruokaa syödä [taitaa olla vaikeaa]. (December 1994, Hilkka)

X very healthy (adverb) Christmas food eat [may be difficult].

It may be difficult to eat Christmas food in a healthy way.

Lexicon

Tuomas was very innovative in his lexical output. It seems unlikely that the facilitators could have systematically been this resourceful and consistent; and never would they be this grossly abusive. In addition to our intuitions, we used the 663-page Suomen kielen perussanakirja (1995) to assess whether a word was a neologism and whether a word as used by Tuomas had a novel meaning. Moreover, being a boy in his teens and frustrated at the behavior of “normal” adults and children around him, it is no wonder that Tuomas very often used most obscene swearwords.

Neologisms

In (23) the word jaksamisia is a derived form of the verb jaksa- be able, have strength (enough), fare (in terms of health) as in the greeting Jaksa hyvin! lit. Fare well! All the best!

(23) verrattain mukavia jaksamisia (April 1994, Hilkka)

(approx.) very nice greetings

Hyrrätä in (24) actually means hum (of, e.g., an automobile engine). Tuomas's use is most probably metaphorically mediated through this vehicular aspect of the meaning of this verb when he used it in the meaning of convey, transport.

(24) […] ja metrolla äiti on hyrrättävä. (May 1994, Hilkka)

[…] and on-subway mother is to-be-whisked (passive)

[…] and mother has to be taken there on subway.

The verb äkkäänty is a neologistic derived form of äkätä (perceive, observe) plus passive-translative or reflexive suffix—VntU, meaning here to strike (one's mind).

(25) […] kirjoittaa mitä minun mieleeni äkkääntyy (November 1994, Hilkka)

[…] writes what my into-mind enters

Tuomas's innovative use of derivational morphology is not restricted to verbs, as is shown in (26), in which the diminutive -nen is used with “poetic license” with the stem wood (i.e., piece of log) that creates a novel word meaning “tiny piece of log” (cf. the English diminutive suffixes -let, -nette and -y, as in piglet, kitchenette, and sonny, not, for example, pigny, kitchenlet or sonette for little pig, little kitchen, and little son, respectively).

(26) […] tämä puu+nen kulkeutuu takkaan […] (July 1996, Hilkka)

[…] this wood+DIM. is-transported into-fireplace […]

[…] this small piece of wood is placed in the fireplace […]

The form ö+in of (32) is a fossilized form of ö+isin (of ‘night’) that Tuomas has detached from the fixed idiom päivin, öin ‘day and night,’ in other words, ‘all the time.’ (Note that kusettaa is the most obscene verb for ‘feel like urinating’ in Finnish.)

(27) Kirjoittaminen öin kusettaa […] (September 1995, Hilkka)

Writing at-nights make-piss (stigmatized verb) […]

Writing at nights makes (me) piss […]

Semantic Idiosyncrasy

The semantically idiosyncratic forms used by Tuomas are mostly to be found among adjectives and adverbs, see, for example, (28) through (33) for pertinent examples. The participial specifier runnaava in (28) is based on the colloquial verb runnata “do X with force, determination” and its contrast to its adverbial head asianmukaisesti “properly” is a blatant clash of style in addition to the fact that a participle is seldom, if ever, used as a specifier (asianmukaisesti is stylistically so sophisticated that a more proper translation would be “with propriety”).

(28) […] runnaavan asianmukaisesti (April 1995, Hilkka)

[…] forcefully-doing: PPLE properly

[…] with forceful propriety

Similarly, the use of the specifier päättäväisen in (29) to modify “important issue” is semantically somewhat odd, to say the least, because päättäväinen, a lexicalized derivative of päättä [“to decide”] refers to people or most extensively to animate referents, who (or which) can perform intentional acts. The exact intended meaning of this noun phrase is not recoverable from the context.

(29) äärimmäisen päättäväisen tärkeä asia (January 1995, Hilkka)

extremely determined:GEN important thing

a matter that is extremely “determined-ly” important

A paragon example of antagonistic clash of senses, sometimes used by Tuomas, is seen in (30), where “irritably” and “with pleasure” are coalesced into the same adverbial phrase.

(30) ärtyisän mielelläni (January 1995, Hilkka)

irritably with-my-pleasure

with (my) irritable pleasure

Tuomas may manipulate (semi)frozen idioms also by changing their constituents. In Finnish one, literally, focuses one's interest in somebody or something (i.e. kohdista- huomio X:ään. In (31) Tuomas feels free to change the verb to focus into a verb meaning “put, place” (or its homophonous mate to sting, namely, pistä-.

(31) minuun pistä+mä+si huomio (January 1995, Hilkka)

in-me place/sting+INFINITIVE+you interest

the interest that you have paid to me

Finite verbs can be complemented with semantically odd adverbs as in (32), where the adverb is derived from the adjective mehevä (“juicy, succulent).” One just wonders how somebody or something can “pacify somebody succulently?”

(32) […] rauhoittaa mehevästi (April 1995, Hilkka)

[…] pacifies succulently

Finally, (33) is an expedient piece of evidence for Tuomas's superbly creative mastery of semantics.

(33) äklöttävä lemu leijui ryhdikkäästi ympärilläni (June 1996, Hilkka)

Obnoxious stench hovered with-a-good-physical-carriage around-me

The obnoxious stench persisted to hover around me.

Swear Words

As shown in Tuomas' use of “four-letter words,” Finnish has more specific lexemes to cover the range of expressions, whereas English (and Scandinavian languages) use only a few lexemes. These examples also go to prove that Tuomas is a master in this subsection of the Finnish lexicon as well:

(34) […] koska minua vituttaa olla E:n kertakaikkiaan perkeleen huonossa

[…] since me cunt:VERB to-be E's altogether devil:GEN bad

[…] since it makes me fucking annoyed to attend E's teaching which

is fucking bad.

opetuksessa. (February 1995, Hilkka)

in-teaching

(35) […] perkeleellistä olemista (January 1995, Hilkka)

[…] devilish-like being

[…] extremely fucking participation

(36) […] paskamaisia ilmoituksia […] (January 1995, Hilkka)

[…] shitty reports

Discussion

The numerous validation studies on facilitated communication that have been reported in scientific journals in recent years have had an important role in advancing our knowledge of the limitations and problems of this communication method. Yet, very little is known about the process of writing through facilitation. Our main goal in this study was to highlight the unique characteristics of Tuomas's language compared to the language of his facilitators, thereby emphasizing that the author of the written output is Tuomas and not his facilitators. Our second purpose was to study the element of the facilitated communication, namely, the linguistic structure of the written output, that has received very little attention in scientific publications. Thus, this article also adds a new dimension to the discourse on the authorship of facilitated communication.

In atheoretical terms, we can state that Tuomas's language is characterized by its creativity, a notion that must be articulated with more theoretical apparatus. In order to approach a more analytic explanation, we suggest that his problems, if any, with his native language reside in the looseness of the semantic and pragmatic constraints. The unexpected transgressions of semantic and pragmatic constraints are visible in the neologistic word forms and in the novel semantic interpretations that he has in his lexicon as well as in the use of peripheral, focalizing positions of syntactic constituents without any indication of the need to focalize any constituent of the sentences. Another strong line of evidence indicating that there may be some problems with the grammar–pragmatics interface in Tuomas's language output is that he may place focalizing clitics in syntactically disallowed constituents. In very broad terms, Tuomas's oral output resembled that found in some fluent (posterior) Wernicke's aphasics in that such individuals may also resort to lexical, morphological, and syntactic idiosyncracies (for Finnish morphology, see Niemi, Laine, & Koivuselkä-Sallinen, 1990). However, the causal mechanisms of these apparently similar outputs need not be same, and it will be left for further, most likely experimental, investigators to examine the causal mechanisms in these two outputs. Tuomas's “errors” definitely differ from those produced by Finnish Broca's aphasics (Niemi, Laine, Hänninen, & Koivuselkä-Sallinen, 1990) and speakers with specific language impairments (Niemi & Heikkinen, 2001). The grammar of Broca's aphasics and speakers with specific language impairments is characterized not so much by “creative” use of potential and nonexistent structures; rather, perhaps due to insufficient activation and/or blurred representations, they tend to choose an item or structure that is close to the correct target, but somewhat amiss. They do not typically exhibit such unexpected creativity as did Tuomas in his lexicon, morphology, and syntax.

Even though this study has a limited amount of data from a person using facilitated communication, our results provide strong evidence for the claim that the text produced by facilitation originates from the author, not from the facilitator. These data clearly indicate the unusual linguistic structure of Tuomas's language compared to that of his facilitators. The results of the study also show that the atypical characteristics of the facilitated texts were similar, regardless of the time or the facilitator. The study also opens up a new field in which to investigate the authorship of facilitated communication. It would be very interesting to determine whether other people using facilitated communication produce written language that has similar linguistic characteristics. In addition, a careful and multilingual study of written outputs where the impact of (a) different facilitators and (b) time, place, and culture could be taken into account would provide exciting new information about the elements of facilitation and, thus, increase our understanding of the phenomenon called “facilitated communication.” Finally, as Cardinal and Biklen (1997) have emphasized: “Adopting the concept of ‘presuming competence’ places an onus of responsibility on educators and researchers to figure out how the person using facilitated communication, or any educational undertaking, can better demonstrate ability ” (p. 208).

Note: The present study was partially funded through an Academy of Finland Grant (Genetic Language Impairment in Finnish, 1998–2000) awarded to the first author.

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Appendix A

A Selection of Relevant Linguistic Terms

Canonical form: Of the competing language patterns (e.g., variants of word order), one is typically the most frequent and less marked. It is also typically used as a citation form without any supporting context as the example of the category. This form is called the canonical one. Both Finnish and English have the SVO, or subject–verb–object most frequent canonical word order (e.g., “Charles could see her”), although other variants, and other orders are possible, such as “Seldom could Charles see her.” In Finnish all six permutations of SVO are in frequent use.

Clitic. A subgroup of word-like elements that are appended to the end of words are called clitics (e.g., the so-called contracted forms of the English will and would in she'll do it, she'd do it, respectively. Finnish clitics differ from the English ones in that they do not have full form variants. They are like real words attached to their hosts. Moreover, their meanings are discourse-based, relating to often ill-defined pragmatic (i.e., use-related) aspects of meaning, such as the -pas (and the concomitant compulsory word-order pattern) in Mattipas sen teki, which means something like “You may think what you think, but I say that it was Matti that did it” instead of “Matti did it,” which would be translation of the “normal” Matti teki sen.

Derivation(al morphology): New words may be created through derivation (i.e., by attaching small, nonindependent units such as -hood, -ness or re- and un- to existing words as in sisterhood, nativeness, re-do, and undo (cf. inflection, hoc vide).

Infinitive. The base, “dictionary form” of a verb such as the English (to) go, or the German (zu) gehen. Finnish “to go” has as many as four infinitives (some with variants): (a) mennä, (b) mennessä, (c) menemässsä, and (d) meneminen.

Inflection(al morphology): New forms (cf. derivation) of existing words may be created by attaching small, nonindependent units like -ed, -s to the stems of words, such as walked, (s/he) walks.

Morphology: In linguistics, morphology refers to the internal structure of words, as in the derived (hoc vide) forms of the English base woman in womanhood and woman-like, or in the inflected (hoc vide) forms of walk and house as in walked, walks, and houses.

Participle. Participles are verb forms that are semantically close to adjectives, such as killed and killing in “The killed man was 43 years old,” and “The killing lunatic broke into our house.”

Pragmatics: In linguistics, pragmatic aspects of meaning refer to those that cannot be “read out” of the utterance without recourse to such factors as the discourse and the role of the participants. Thus, the institutionalized response to the utterance “Do you know what time it is?” is to respond by giving the time of the day. However, in some contexts it may be a command, as in a nursery-room context with the caretaker as the speaker. Then the inferred meaning would be something like “Go to bed/sleep.”

Syntax. In linguistics, syntax deals with the structure of sentences (e.g., with word order, internal relations, or complexity).

Author notes

Authors: Jussi Niemi, PhD, Professor in Linguistics ( jussi.niemi@joensuu.fi) and Eija Kärnä-Lin, PhD, Lecturer in Special Education, PO Box 111, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland 80101