A Look at Broca's Aphasia

Apr 26, 2019 | by Caitlin Mueller, MS, CCC-SLP

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Imagine knowing exactly what you want to say, but you are unable to get the words out. This is how people with Broca’s aphasia, also known as nonfluent or expressive aphasia, feel every day. Let's take a closer look at this form of aphasia.

Broca’s aphasia typically occurs following a stroke, although it can be the result of other brain injury as well. When a stroke or injury damages a part of the brain's left hemisphere known as Broca's area, it results in Broca's aphasia, named after French scientist Paul Broca. This area of the brain affects speech production and one's ability to put words together. Because of the damage to the left side of the brain, many people with Broca’s aphasia also have weakness on the right side of the body.

Example of Broca’s Aphasia in Conversation

One afternoon, Teresa runs into her neighbor Tom as they are both arriving home. “How was your weekend?” asks Tom. Teresa understands him perfectly and wants to share a story about going to her granddaughter’s baseball game since she knows Tom is a baseball fan. But when Teresa tries to say, “My granddaughter hit the winning home run at her baseball game,” it comes out as “I… gra… grand… daughter … base… baseball.”

Characteristics of Broca’s Aphasia

Here are some of the most common characteristics that accompany Broca’s aphasia:

  • Intelligence and cognition are not affected
  • Reading and listening are less affected; simple sentences are easiest to understand
  • Speaking and writing are most impacted
    • Speech can be very difficult and limited to a few words
    • Small words like prepositions, articles and conjunctions are often left out
    • Sentences can be disjointed and/or scrambled
    • Word substitutions can occur, such as “pen” instead of “pencil,” or “week” instead of “month”
    • Speech can be laborious and halting
  • Severity can range from mild to severe
  • People with Broca’s aphasia are typically aware of their communication difficulties

Living with Broca’s Aphasia

People with Broca’s aphasia can benefit from speech therapy and communication devices, depending on the severity of the aphasia. They can also improve their communication abilities for a long time following a stroke, especially with therapy and support.

If you or someone you know has Broca’s aphasia, our 12 Tips for Successful Communication with a Person Who Has Aphasia can help with everyday conversations and lead to more meaningful interactions.

Download the 12 Tips