Prosodic characteristics of prepausal words produced by patients with neurodegenerative disease

Sunghye Cho, Galit Agmon, Sanjana Shellikeri, Katheryn A.Q. Cousins, Sharon Ash, David J. Irwin, Meredith Spindler, Andres F. Deik, Lauren B. Elman, Colin Quinn, Mark Liberman, Murray Grossman, Naomi Nevler

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Prosody of patients with neurodegenerative disease is often impaired. We investigated changes to two prosodic cues in patients: the pitch contour and the duration of prepausal words. We analyzed recordings of picture descriptions produced by patients with neurodegenerative conditions that included either cognitive (n=223), motor (n=68), or mixed cognitive and motor impairments (n=109), and by healthy controls (n=28; HC). A speech activity detector identified pauses. Words were aligned to the acoustic signal; pitch values were normalized in scale and duration. Analyses of pitch showed that the ending (90th-100th percentile) of prepausal words had a lower pitch in the mixed and motor groups than the cognitive group and HC. The pitch contour from the midpoint of words to the end showed a steep rising slope for HC, but patients showed a gentle rising or flat slope. This suggests that HC signaled the continuation of their description after the pause with rising contour; patients either failed to keep describing the picture due to cognitive impairment or could not raise pitch due to motor impairments. Prepausal words showed longer duration relative to non-prepausal words with no significant differences between the groups. This suggests that prepausal lengthening is preserved in patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-124
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Speech Prosody
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event11th International Conference on Speech Prosody, Speech Prosody 2022 - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 23 May 202226 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 International Speech Communications Association. All rights reserved.


  • Prepausal lengthening
  • clinical speech
  • cognitive impairment
  • final pitch contour
  • motor impairment
  • neurodegeneration


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