Assessing head-and-neck cancer patient speech with the vowel dispersion index

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  • The present study uses a measure of the dispersion of density throughout the vowel space—called the vowel dispersion index—to assess speech patterns in head-and-neck cancer patients. The vowel dispersion index is based on calculating the total variation of the density values in Story and Bunton’s (2017) convex hull representation of vowel space density. Overall, the vowel dispersion index quantifies how much change there is throughout the vowel space density. The vowel dispersion index is calculated and analyzed for a sample of 333 recordings of the zoo passage from 107 head-and-neck cancer patients at different stages pre- and post-surgery. Linear mixed-effects regression suggests that the vowel dispersion index is not greatly influenced by the time elapsed since a patient underwent surgery. In contrast, vowel space area is reduced following surgery. These trends suggest that patients retain control of the dispersion of their vowels throughout the vowel space, even after surgery. Their vowel space area does place a constraint on the degree to which they can disperse their vowel tokens, however. These findings are discussed with respect to phonetic theory, principally, Lindblom’s (1990) H&H theory. [This poster was presented at the 178th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.]

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    Conference/Workshop Poster
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International