Effects of Disfluencies on Listeners’ Processing of Speech

  • Author / Creator
    Leonard, Catherine M
  • Background. Stuttered speech (e.g., th-ththth-th-ththth-the car) and typical disfluencies (e.g., thee uh car) have some similarities. Previous research describes a tendency in listeners to predict that a speaker will refer to an unfamiliar object, rather than a familiar one, when both are equally plausible referents in a verbal instruction that contains a typical disfluency. This is referred to as the unfamiliarity bias. When listeners have reason to believe that the speaker’s disfluency may not be reliably tied to word familiarity, the unfamiliarity bias can be suspended. Purpose. The first aim of this study was to determine if stuttering would have the same effect on listeners’ processing of language as do typical disfluencies. The second aim of this study was to investigate whether such effects on language processing would be suspended when listeners were informed that they would hear a person who stutters. Methods. The EyeLink 1000 Plus system was used to collect data from 52 participants. Analyses of variance, with factors of acknowledgement (acknowledgment, non-acknowledgement), target type (familiar, unfamiliar), and fluency (fluent, typically disfluent, stuttered) were used to analyze each dependent variable. Data were analyzed by subjects and by items. Dependent measures were the proportion of looks to the target object and proportion of looks to the competitor object, out of looks to all objects. Planned comparisons were subsequently conducted using pairwise t-tests. Results. The unfamiliarity bias was found with typical and stuttered disfluencies when the target type was unfamiliar, however, acknowledgement of stuttering did not suspend this bias. Conclusions. Listeners responded to stuttered disfluencies in a manner similar to typical disfluencies, but were not affected by the acknowledgement. Further investigation is warranted to better describe the effects of stuttering on speech processing and mitigating factors.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.