Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

Reduced breath support in a speaker with dysarthria secondary to multiple sclerosis: Its impact on conversational speech

Ben Rutter
Issued Date: 20 Jun 2013


This case study describes a patient with reduced breath support due to multiple sclerosis. Although deficits to the supralaryngeal structures are more commonly associated with a reduction in intelligibility, atypical breathing patterns can severely impact the perceptual coherence of dysarthric speech. This is most likely to manifest in conversational speech as the demands of correctly signalling syntactic, pragmatic and interactional information all rely on control of the breath support system. The study uses the method of interactional phonetics to consider in combination the role of phonetic, linguistic and interactional design in the speaker’s natural conversation. The analysis was carried out by taking into account the sequential order of turns and representative extracts are presented. The patient’s dysarthria has previously been identified as mild but the findings indicate that issues surrounding breath group length, speech rate and phonatory instability all surface in conversational speech. Of particular interest are the introduction of new person referents and their potential to trigger repair sequences. The findings indicate that a mild dysarthria with reduced breath support as a primary symptom can cause considerable problems of understandability in conversational speech. However, attention to the way in which potentially problematic interactional tasks are carried out and the successful use of repair strategies can minimise these issues.

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DOI: 10.1558/jircd.v4i1.27


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