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Statistical knowledge aids spoken word recognition with phonological tone in stutterers

Poster B70 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Jiaqiang Zhu1, Jing Shao2, Caicai Zhang1, Fei Chen3, Seth Wiener4; 1The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 2Hong Kong Baptist University, 3Hunan University, 4Carnegie Mellon University

Recent evidence has indicated that apart from disfluent production behavior, stutterers are also degraded in speech perception relative to typical, nonstuttering individuals. It is less known, however, of whether statistical learning plays a role in stutterers’ abnormal speech perception. The current study recruited stutterers who spoke Mandarin Chinese and examined their abilities to track statistical regularities, namely syllable token frequency and syllable-tone co-occurrence probability, embedded in their native speech for spoken word recognition. Correspondingly, an auditory-perceptual gating experiment was designed. With close-matched age, working memory, gender ratio, and education level between the two groups, seventeen stutterers and 20 nonstuttering controls participated in this study. The auditory stimuli were 48 syllable-tone words varying in syllable frequency (high and low frequent syllables) and tone probability (more and less probable tones), determined using a spoken word corpus of Mandarin Chinese. Besides, these monosyllabic words were manipulated in acoustic length; that is, each word was segmented into eight successive gates, where stimuli in Gates 1 and 8 were the word onset and the complete word, but in Gates 2 through 7, their acoustic information of the rhyme gradually extended with the increment size fixed at 40 ms. Using Pinyin that specifies syllable and tone, participants needed to type the perceived words played from Block 1 (Gate 1) to Block 8 (Gate 8). Their responses were analyzed using mixed-effects models in terms of correct syllables, correct lexical tones, correct syllable-tone words, and correct-syllable-incorrect-tone errors, in order to comprehensively estimate their processing of segments and suprasegmentals. Results showed the differences that occurred between the two groups: stutterers had fewer correct responses to syllables, tones, and their combination as words than their fluent peers. Notwithstanding, stutterers’ performance profiles patterned similarly to typical controls, as they had more accurate responses to high-frequency syllables, high-probability tones, and tone errors in all manners akin to those of nonstuttering controls. To conclude, this study corroborated that stuttering negatively affects speech perception. However, stutterers are capable of perceiving the words with phonological tones by using their statistical knowledge to track speech regularities in their native language. Their degraded speech perception is hence less likely a result of a faulty statistical learning mechanism. Combined our findings with those of previous studies that implied the effect of statistical information on stutterers’ speech production, the link between perception and production can be supported. Moreover, future translational research may have a try to design an intervention program with a component relating to stimulus statistics, i.e., the materials may be chosen or separated by taking their statistical properties into account, in the hope of remediating stuttering.

Topic Areas: Speech Perception, Disorders: Developmental

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