Poster E51, Saturday, August 18, 3:00 – 4:45 pm, Room 2000AB

Production and Perception of Sentence Focus in Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease Who Speak Mandarin

Xi Chen1,2, Diana Van Lancker Sidits1,2;1New York University, 2Brain and Behavior Laboratory, Geriatrics, The Nathan Kline Institute

INTRODUCTION Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which not only disrupts patients’ physical mobility, but also causes impairment to patients’ speech prosody in functional communication due to a deficient subcortical system. Previous studies have examined prosody in PD speech, but most of these addressed non-tone languages, resulting in a lack of evidence for individuals with PD speaking tone languages. In a tone language, the mechanism of pitch variability is more complex since pitch is used to discriminate both lexical and intonational information. Given a more complicated sentence context in a tone language, such as a sentence with a contrastive focus on a particular word, it might be more challenging to fulfill the target since speakers not only have to realize the particular pitch contour of the words to distinguish lexical meanings, but also must produce intonational contrasts for a particular discourse purpose. It is not known if individuals with PD speaking a tone language will be successful in producing and perceiving sentence focus. In the present study, we examined the performance of Mandarin-speaking PD individuals in producing and perceiving contrastive sentence focus. Since previous studies have reported differential effects of speech tasks in speech-disordered populations, we compared performance in elicitation and repetition. METHODS Speakers’ production and perception tasks Sixteen Mandarin-speaking individuals with PD and 21 age-matched healthy controls (HC) described pictures showing activities of animal figures, first, with neutral focus. The experimenter then asked three questions referencing contrastive content in the picture, in order to elicit the focused lexical item (subject, verb, or object). The correct answers featured a different contrastive sentence focus. The participants then listened to sentences with various contrastive focus recorded by the experimenter and repeated those sentences. All participants’ utterances were recorded. For the speakers’ perception task, all the speakers listened to a new set of sentences with different focus conditions recorded by the experimenter and identified which one of the three words carried the sentence focus. The cognitive status of the participants was evaluated. The PD speakers scored lower than HC. Healthy listeners’ perception task Sixty-four healthy native Mandarin speakers listened to utterances produced by the PD and HC speakers. They were asked to identify the position of the sentence focus and give ratings to the prominence of the focus for each utterance. RESULTS The PD speakers received lower scores than the HC speakers in listeners’ identification and goodness ratings. Both groups had better performance in repetition than in elicitation in terms of listeners’ identification and goodness ratings. Regarding goodness ratings, the performance of PD speakers demonstrated larger difference between the two speech tasks, indicating a greater task effect. In addition, the PD speakers showed intact perception of sentence focus despite the potential presence of cognitive impairment. CONCLUSION Mandarin-speaking PD speakers were less successful in producing clear and accurate contrastive sentence focus but were preserved in the ability of perceiving contrastive sentence focus. A task effect was found, with better performance on repeated than elicited speech, as is consistent with previous studies.

Topic Area: Language Disorders