In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Clinical Linguistics

  • Introduction
  • History of the Discipline
  • Textbooks
  • Glossaries
  • Edited Collections
  • Reference Resources
  • Bibliographies
  • Databases
  • Journals

Linguistics Clinical Linguistics
Louise Cummings
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0079


Clinical linguistics is the application of linguistic concepts, theories, and methods to the study of language disorders. These disorders can result from impairment of, or breakdown in, one or more of the following language components: prosody, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. Some language disorders have their onset in the developmental period (developmental language disorders), while others occur for the first time in late childhood and adulthood (acquired language disorders). Language disorders can compromise the reception or understanding of language and/or its expression or production, with impairments possible across a range of modalities (spoken, written, and signed language). This branch of linguistics is inextricably linked to speech-language pathology (also known as speech and language therapy in the United Kingdom), the clinical discipline responsible for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of clients with a range of communication disorders (and not just language disorders). However, clinical linguistics is nonetheless a distinct linguistic discipline that is not in any way subsumed by speech-language pathology. In addition to having a detailed knowledge of linguistic disciplines, the speech-language pathologist must understand a range of medical conditions and their likely impact on language skills in children and adults.

History of the Discipline

For the most part, historiography has not been a concern of either clinical linguists or speech-language pathologists. The rather rare examples of work of this type—Perkins 2011 in clinical linguistics and A History of Speech—Language Pathology in speech-language pathology—shed important light on the current state of these disciplines.

  • A History of Speech—Language Pathology.

    This detailed history of speech-language pathology is compiled by Judith Felson Duchan, an emeritus professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences at the University of Buffalo. The website is divided into six historical periods. Additional resources include a speech-language dictionary and biographies of pioneers in speech-language pathology.

  • Perkins, M. R. 2011. Clinical linguistics: Its past, present and future. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 25.11–12: 922–927.

    DOI: 10.3109/02699206.2011.599471

    Traces the history of clinical linguistics from its pre-scientific days to the present time. Discussion reveals the broadening of the discipline from its roots in structural linguistics to its current reciprocal relationship with speech-language pathology and other disciplines.

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