Acoustic Differences Between Content and Function Words in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Turner, Greg S.; Tjaden, Kris
June 2000
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Jun2000, Vol. 43 Issue 3, p769
Academic Journal
Studies describing acoustic characteristics of speech produced by individuals with dysarthria may help to explain intelligibility deficits for these speakers. One goal of the current study was to investigate the manner and extent to which nine speakers with mild to moderate dysarthria associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and nine healthy speakers acoustically distinguished/i/,/ae/,/u/, and/a/in content and function words. A further aim was to evaluate the relationship between impaired speech in ALS and the magnitude of acoustic differences for vowels in content and function words. Speakers read the Farm Passage at a comfortable or habitual rate. F1 and F2 midpoint frequencies were measured, and vowel space areas were calculated. Vowel durations also were measured. The magnitude of Fl, F2, vowel space area, and duration differences for vowels in content and function words was not statistically different for speakers with ALS and healthy controls. In addition, with the exception of/i/produced by some speakers with ALS, vowel duration tended to be shorter in function words. Average F1 and F2 values for function words also tended to be centralized relative to content words. Although vowel space area differences for the two speaker groups were not statistically significant, there was a tendency for the difference in vowel space area for content and function words to be smaller for speakers with ALS than for controls. Regression analyses further indicated that the magnitude of temporal differences for vowels in content and function words was a better predictor of impaired speech than the magnitude of spectral differences for vowels in content and function words. One clinical implication is that individuals with ALS may benefit from therapy techniques targeting temporal properties of the acoustic signal.


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