«1.Magnitude Estimation of disfluency by stutterers and nonstutterers. Melanie Russell,1 Martin Corley,2 and Robin Lickley1 Speech and Language ...»
In contrast, it is important to note that the continuity hypothesis was not directly supported: excerpts from dialogues between stuttering participants were rated as worse than those from nonstutterers, regardless of whether they were fluent or not, and regardless of who was doing the rating. In fact, there is evidence that both the disfluent and the fluent speech of stutterers may involve abnormal motor activity, both in laryngeal dynamics (e.g., Adams et al., 1985) and in the supralaryngeal organs (Wood, 1995). Using electropalatography, Wood found that stutterers produced greater degrees of lingual-palatal contact while producing alveolar plosives in fluent speech than did nonstutterers. It seems likely that such indications of muscular tension in the speech production apparatus (for example “hard contacts” in Van Riper’s (1982) terms) may be perceptible to listeners. If they were present in our experimental materials, subjects may have reflected this in their fluency judgements.
In itself, this supposition does not contradict a self-monitor based explanation of stuttering: sensitivity to the likelihood of stuttering, and a hypersensitivity to potential repairs, may be reflected in motor activity.
The study reported here is also limited in that it only addresses onset repetitions: one of several symptoms associated with stuttering. One reason for investigating repetitions first is because the silent interval can be measured objectively, and can therefore be used as a reliable measure of stuttering for clinicians (stutterers tend to have a shorter silent interval). Although Wijnen (2000) argues that the Vicious Circle hypothesis also applies to other symptoms such as prolongations and blocks, further research is needed before we are able to rule out counterexplanations of these manifestations. Another limitation is the number of subjects in this study: we are addressing this in a larger study currently nearing completion.
In contrast to the more ‘objective’ view presented here, Perkins (1995) claims that it is the speaker’s feelings of loss of control over their speech that truly defines stuttering, rather than particular types or frequencies of disfluencies. He argues that taking averages of averages and trying to obtain a quantitative description of an essentially qualititative issue loses most of the sensitivity and original quality of the data. The issue of subjectivity is of crucial importance in this area of research – to what extent can the diverse speech behaviour of stutterers be quantified in controlled experiments? We would contend that using a sufficiently sensitive task such as Magnitude Estimation avoids some of the pitfalls that Perkins envisages, and allows us to make important insights into the nature of stuttering. This approach has little to say about the pathology of stuttering (as yet, there is no account of what causes hypersensitivity in the self-monitor), but much to say about its manifestation, and by implication, about some possible therapeutic approaches. In particular, the findings reported here and in Vasic and Wijnen’s earlier chapter suggest that stuttering may be ameliorated by encouraging clients to tolerate, rather than attempt to avoid, the speech errors that all speakers are prone to make.
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