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Word syllable duration for AOS (Bunker et al., 2024)

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posted on 2024-03-25, 20:45 authored by Lisa D. Bunker, Dallin J. Bailey, Elaine Poss, Shannon Mauszycki, Julie Wambaugh

Purpose: Neurogenic speech and language disorders—such as acquired apraxia of speech (AOS) and aphasia with phonemic paraphasia (APP)—are often misdiagnosed due to similarities in clinical presentation. Word syllable duration (WSD)—a measure of average syllable length in multisyllabic words—serves as a proxy for speech rate, which is an important and arguably more objective clinical characteristic of AOS and APP. This study reports stability of WSD over time for speakers with AOS (and aphasia).

Method: Twenty-nine participants with AOS and aphasia (11 women and 18 men, Mage = 53.5 years, SD = 13.3) repeated 30 multisyllabic words (of three-, four-, and five-syllable lengths) on three occasions across 4 weeks. WSDs were calculated for each word and then averaged across each list (i.e., word length), as well as across combined lists (i.e., all 30 words) to yield four WSDs for each participant at each time point. Stability over time was calculated using Friedman’s test for the group and using Spearman’s rho for the individual level. Effects of time and word length were examined using robust mixed-effects linear regression.

Results: Friedman’s tests and correlations indicated no significant difference in WSDs across sampling occasions for each word length separately or combined. WSD correlated positively with AOS severity and negatively with intelligibility but was not correlated with aphasia severity. Regression analyses confirmed WSD to be stable over time, while WSD calculated from only five tokens (i.e., WSD-5) was less stable over time.

Conclusions: Results indicate that WSD can be a stable measure over time, at the individual and group level, providing support for its use in diagnosis and/or as an outcome measure, both clinically and for research. In general, WSD outperformed WSD-5, suggesting that it may be better to calculate WSD from more than five tokens. Stability of WSD in other populations and suitability for differential diagnosis need to be determined. Currently, differentiating disorders by speaking rate, alone, is not recommended.

Supplemental Material S1. Robust linear mixed-effects regression models without controlling for aphasia severity (WAB-R AQ) or AOS severity (ASRS 3.0).

Bunker, L. D., Bailey, D. J., Poss, E., Mauszycki, S., & Wambaugh, J. L. (2024). Stability over time of word syllable duration for speakers with acquired apraxia of speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.

Publisher Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: Select Papers From the 8th International Conference on Speech Motor Control.


This research was supported in part by Small Projects in Rehabilitation Research (SPiRE) RX001365-0 and Research Career Scientist Award 23727, awarded to Julie L. Wambaugh, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service.


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