“Advances in Speech-Language Pathology” by Sara Howard (University of Sheffield, UK) discusses and explores the subject of interplay between articulatory accuracy and prosodic fluency in speech production of children suffering from persistent developmental speech impairments. The author focuses on comparing and contrasting children’s production of single words with their connected speech production. In her investigation she uses a number of combined examinations such as perceptual, electropalatographic and acoustic analyses.
Howard claims that the analyses used for the subject exploration “demonstrate how a combination of perceptual and instrumental analysis can aid analysis and provide insights into the relationship between listeners’ impressions and speakers’ behaviors in impaired speech production”. The study is based on the paper by Howard (2004), with the difference that the present investigation shifts its focus to the tension between paradigmatic accuracy and syntagmatic fluency. It particularly takes a look at close and open juncture behaviors and their relationship to other connected speech production prosodic and articulatory factors.
The participants of the present study were six older children or young adolescents. They had all been referred for electropalatography (EPG) therapy for persistent misarticulation of alveolar and postalveolar consonants. Through the examination a number of specifically selected colored photos of individuals being involved in routine actions were presented to the participants (speakers), that were consequently asked to describe those in any desirable way. As the result fifty-six photo descriptions were available for examination, approximately 8 to10 picture descriptions given by each child. The sections of the author’s particular interest were then chosen and phonetic transcriptions were made. These transcriptions were consequently compared to the electropalatographic and spectrographic data provided by WINEPG, each speaker’s received data being analyzed with particular attention.
The author concludes that the analyses made have demonstrated how the speakers “produced articulatory behaviors and articulatory variation in the spontaneous speech picture description task which were not seen in their production of single words from picture elicitation”. She as well mentions some disagreement between the perceptual analyses and the instrumental data, which nevertheless has not prevent the study from being effective. She states the existence of some obvious and important similarities between the study participants both in terms of specific speech behaviors and also in terms of their responses to the twin demands of paradigmatic accuracy and syntagmatic fluency, being present even though all the speakers differ from each other. Consistent difficulties in articulatory accuracy were showed across the group, even in single word elicitation tasks. All participants used close juncture at word boundaries in some of their speech production. And finally, the data collected demonstrated the obvious differences between connected speech production and speech production in single word elicitation tasks.
The study’s limitation lies in the fact that drawing on topical information about normal adult speech production and connected speech processes, and lacking such information about normally developing children, rules out the comparison and contrasting of normal and impaired development. The author emphasizes that categorical conclusions concerning the difference between unusual speech behaviors in the impaired and normal development data are not to be made. It is also important to realize that the study focuses on only a small group of children. The author claims that to be effectively clinically implicated more information about connected speech production across larger and more varied clinical populations is needed. Howard herself states that the conducted study “only starts to scratch the surface of a rich and complex area”.