Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours)

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Charn Nang

Second Advisor

Dr Natalie Ciccone

Abstract

Background and Purpose: Language ability in children who stutter has been linked to the occurrence of stuttering, however, the validity of research supporting this connection has been recently questioned. Previous research, within this area, has been limited by methodological confounds, such as lack of appropriately matched comparison groups, and the use of measures with insufficient sensitivity to potentially examine the subtle differences between children who stutter (CWS) and children who do not stutter (CWNS). Frequent hesitations or pauses are defining characteristics of the speech of people who stutter. However, little is known about the nature and frequency of the pauses found within the speech of CWS. Examination of pauses within speech is a novel method of analysing speech production with the potential to provide insight into the speech and language processing and an opportunity to explore differences between normal and disordered speech. This study aimed to compare the speech and language processes of CWS to CWNS.

Methods and Procedures: This study compared language and pause measures taken from narrative samples of age (Mean age = 6 years and 10 months) and gender matched CWS (n= 6), and CWNS (n= 6). The oral narratives were collected using a story generation task and were transcribed and analysed using the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcription (SALT) (Miller & Iglesias, 2012). For each sample the mean length of utterance in morphemes, the total number of utterances, the number of different word roots, the % intelligible words and the % words in mazes were calculated. Additionally the computer software programme PRAAT was used to segment the samples into sections of speech and pauses and the segmented samples were transformed into two lognormal pause distributions (Boersma, & Weenink, 2013). The pauses of CWS were analysed twice, once with stutters present and once with stutters removed. For the two groups the results from the language and pause analyses were compared through ttests and the relationship between Percent Syllables stutters, and the pause and language measures, was examined through correlation.

Results: For all discourse and pause measures the difference between the CWS and CWNS was not significant. The only significant difference was found between the CWS and CWNS in the degree of overlap of the short and long pause distributions (Misclassification Rate) in the samples of CWS, when stutters were present. Percent Syllables Stuttered was found to be significantly positively correlated with Percent Mazes and Syllables Spoken per Second when stutters were present in the samples of CWS. Percent Syllables Stuttered was found to be significantly negatively correlated with Short Pause Mean with stutters present in the samples of CWS.

Conclusions: In this study, the connection between stuttering and language was not supported as the language measures gathered from CWS were all found to be similar to those gathered from CWNS. The findings in this research support explanations of stuttering in which stuttering is attributed to factors exclusive to language ability, such as stuttering being a difficulty in speech motor control

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