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A cross-linguistic study of rhythm in ataxic dysarthria
J.C. Röder, A. Lowit, E. Schalling, L. Hartelius, P. Azou, & I. Mennen

Ataxic dysarthria is particularly characterised by a disturbance of rhythm which reduces intelligibility and gives an unnatural quality to speech (e.g. Kent et al. 1997). It is generally assumed that the rhythmic disturbances in ataxic dysarthria are due to problems with the cerebellum, which is responsible for motor control. Most studies into rhythm in ataxic dysarthria provide information about speakers of English and German (stress-timed languages). Currently there is no detailed information available on the manifestations of problems in languages with other types of rhythm, e.g. syllable-timed languages. This poster will report the results of a pilot study that aims to develop appropriate methodologies for a cross-linguistic comparison of ataxic dysarthric speech, and to investigate in detail the rhythmic changes that can be observed in these speakers.

Six English and six French speakers with spino-cerebellar or cerebellar ataxia were assessed, alongside healthy matched control subjects for each language. All subjects had to perform a variety of speech tasks, ranging from highly rhythmic tasks to those eliciting more natural speech rhythm. A selection of different rhythm measures were carried out to identify which were most suited to detect deviations of rhythm within as well as across languages. Results will be presented with respect to the applicability of different rhythm measures in characterizing the rhythmic disturbances of ataxic speakers, as well as a comparison of rhythmic changes in ataxia across English and French.

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