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02-10-2012 | Speech-language pathology | Article

Foreign Accent Syndrome individuals overemphasize given information


Free abstract

medwireNews: Individuals with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) often place pitch accents on given information, instead of de-accenting such elements, and encounter problems in signaling the status of information, the results of a UK study indicate.

"This suggests that the intonation deficits observed in the speakers with FAS may originate at the level of phonetic implementation, with secondary effects observable on the execution of pragmatic function," the team reports in the International Journal of Language and Communications Disorders.

Anja Kuschmann and Anja Lowit, from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, add: "The results of the present study highlight the relevance of both phonological and phonetic aspects in determining the functionality of intonation in marking of information status in FAS."

Four speakers with FAS and four age-, gender-, and dialect-matched control speakers participated in a speech production experiment that centered on a sentence reading task designed to investigate the marking of information status through controlling length, syntactic structure, and lexical stress patterns via target words.

Both FAS and control speakers employed the same pitch accents to signal new information, and both groups consistently assigned a pitch accent to new information. Both groups assigned pitch accents in prefocal position, with the FAS group adding a pitch accent in 25% of all realizations.

By contrast, there were significant differences between the groups in the use of pitch accents to mark given information postfocally, which resulted from control individuals largely de-accenting given information and FAS participants marking given information with pitch accents.

The team also notes that FAS individuals typically took longer to produce new, and given, target words than control participants, which suggested a slower articulation rate among participants with FAS. Nevertheless, both groups used speaking duration to differentiate between new and given information. Both groups used intensity levels to differentiate between new and given information.

Finally, it was observed that new information was consistently identified correctly when sentences were spoken by control individuals. By contrast, only 55% of utterances by FAS participants had the expected information status pattern.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Liam Davenport, medwireNews Reporter