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Influence of alphabet cues on listeners’ ability to identify first letters, first phonemes, and
constituent words in sentences correctly

Katherine C. Hustad

This study compared identification accuracy of first letters, first phonemes, and individual words when experimentally imposed alphabet cues were associated with the habitual speech of individuals with dysarthria. Nine speakers with dysarthria secondary to cerebral palsy participated in the research; and 16 different listeners provided orthographic transcriptions for each speaker (144 listeners). Consistent with previous studies, results across all speakers showed that alphabet cues increased listeners’ ability to identify constituent words within sentences by approximately 10% relative to non-cued habitual speech. In addition, first letter identification accuracy and first phoneme identification accuracy were significantly higher than word identification accuracy both when alphabet cues were superimposed on habitual speech and when no such cues were provided. This finding suggests that although word boundaries may seem unclear in the connected speech of many speakers with dysarthria, listeners are able to decipher the initial sound segments of individual words with a surprising degree of accuracy, even when alphabet cues are not provided. Finally, results showed that alphabet cues have a somewhat greater effect on first letter and first phoneme identification accuracy than they have on word identification accuracy. Clinical and theoretical implications will be discussed.

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