It has been well established that positive identity construction or reconstruction is important for positive rehabilitation outcomes after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Such identities are constructed and communicated through interactional exchanges. In this study, the tools of systemic functional linguistics are used to investigate how language was used to create and establish identities for three participants with a severe TBI. Four conversations related to each participant with TBI were analysed. These included a casual conversation between a stranger and the participant, as well as ethnographic interviews with each participant, their closest family member, and the staff member that worked most closely with each at the residential facility. Topic analysis revealed that topics of anger and of aspirations were commonly discussed by participants and their caregivers, and a detailed analysis of identity construction within these exchanges is presented. The data highlights how lack of independence and autonomy is associated with anger, and how aspirations and goal setting may facilitate positive outcomes. In conclusion, language analysis methods can provide detailed information about how individuals with TBI communicate and negotiate identities. Such identities may not always match those projected by their caregivers. This research highlights implications for language interventions that promote identity development.
Keywords: Traumatic brain injury; cognitive communication; identity; linguistic analysis; systemic functional linguistics.