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The effects of slowed speech on auditory comprehension in aphasia

Brain and Language
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0093-934x(85)90134-8
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine


Abstract The present study investigates the effects of slowed speech on auditory comprehension in aphasia. Specifically, an attempt was made to isolate the effects of added time on comprehension at the language processing stages of (1) auditory perception, by increasing the duration of the vowel segments in each word; (2) word recognition and semantic analysis, by adding silences between words; and (3) syntactic analysis, by adding silences at constituent phrase boundaries. Sentences were also read at a slow rate to see the effects of naturally slowed speech on sentence comprehension. Test sentences consisted of simple active and passive declarative sentences, and complex sentences with embedded medical and final relative clauses. Sentences were either semantically reversible or nonreversible. Thirty-four aphasic patients who varied in both severity and type of aphasia were tested on a picture verification task. Results indicated that slowing facilitated language comprehension significantly only in the syntactic condition. Neither syntactic complexity nor semantic reversibility interacted with slowed speech to facilitate auditory language comprehension. Further, it was only the Wernicke's aphasics who showed significant improvement with time added at constituent boundaries. These results suggest that time alone does not facilitate language comprehension in aphasia, but that rather it is the interaction of time with syntactic processing which improves comprehension.

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