Prosodic Control in Severe Dysarthria: Preserved Ability to Mark the Question-Statement Contrast

Patel, Rupal
October 2002
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2002, Vol. 45 Issue 5, p858
Academic Journal
Speakers with severe dysarthria are known to have reduced range in prosody. Consistent control within that range, however, has largely been ignored. In earlier investigations speakers with severe dysarthria were able to control pitch and duration for sustained vowel production despite reduced flexibility of control (Patel, 1998). The present experiment examined whether 8 speakers with severe dysarthria due to cerebral palsy used prosodic parameters of pitch contour and syllable duration for phrase-level productions. Speakers with dysarthria (N = 8) produced 3-syllable phrases as questions and statements. Naïve listeners (N = 48) classifed dysarthric productions as either questions or statements. Listeners were able to distinguish questions from statements with accuracy levels ranging from 81% to 98 %. We were also interested in studying how dysarthric speakers marked the question-statement contrast. Prosodic features of pitch contour and syllable duration were systematically removed from the original recorded vocalizations to examine the salience of these features on listener classification. Removal of pitch contour cues dramatically reduced listener accuracy scores to almost chance performance. Listeners found pitch contour cues to be information-bearing cues in dysarthric vocalizations even though the range of frequency control in these speakers may be reduced. That speakers with dysarthria were able to exert sufficient control to signal the question-statement contrast has implications for diagnostic and intervention practices aimed to optimally exploit prosodic control for enhancing communication efficiency.


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