The Influence of Speaking Rate on Vowel Space and Speech Intelligibility for Individuals With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Greg S. Turner
    Department of Communicative Disorders and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Kris Tjaden
    Department of Communicative Disorders and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Gary Weismer
    Department of Communicative Disorders and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract

<jats:p>The relationship between speaking rate, vowel space area, and speech intelligibility was studied in a group of 9 subjects with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and 9 age- and gender-matched controls. Subjects read a standard passage (the Farm Passage) at three speaking rates, including HABITUAL, FAST, and SLOW. Vowel segment durations and target formant frequencies were measured at each speaking rate from select words containing the vowels /i/, /æ/, /a/, and /u/. To quantify changes in vowel space area across speaking rate, the area of the vowel quadrilateral was calculated for each speaker at each speaking rate. In addition, intelligibility estimates at each speaking rate were obtained for the dysarthric speakers. Results revealed that dysarthric speakers exhibited smaller vowel space areas and less systematic changes in vowel space as a function of speaking rate, when compared to the neurologically intact speakers. In an examination of the relationship between vowel space area and speech intelligibility, vowel space was found to account for 45% of the variance in speech intelligibility. This result suggests that vowel space area is an important component of global estimates of speech intelligibility.</jats:p>

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