3 years ago

Don’t speak too fast! Processing of fast rate speech in children with specific language impairment

Aurélia Caillot-Bascoul, Nathalie Bedoin, Sonia Krifi-Papoz, Hélène Guiraud, Vania Herbillon, Véronique Boulenger, Sibylle Gonzalez-Monge

Perception of speech rhythm requires the auditory system to track temporal envelope fluctuations, which carry syllabic and stress information. Reduced sensitivity to rhythmic acoustic cues has been evidenced in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), impeding syllabic parsing and speech decoding. Our study investigated whether these children experience specific difficulties processing fast rate speech as compared with typically developing (TD) children.


Sixteen French children with SLI (8–13 years old) with mainly expressive phonological disorders and with preserved comprehension and 16 age-matched TD children performed a judgment task on sentences produced 1) at normal rate, 2) at fast rate or 3) time-compressed. Sensitivity index (d′) to semantically incongruent sentence-final words was measured.


Overall children with SLI perform significantly worse than TD children. Importantly, as revealed by the significant Group × Speech Rate interaction, children with SLI find it more challenging than TD children to process both naturally or artificially accelerated speech. The two groups do not significantly differ in normal rate speech processing.


In agreement with rhythm-processing deficits in atypical language development, our results suggest that children with SLI face difficulties adjusting to rapid speech rate. These findings are interpreted in light of temporal sampling and prosodic phrasing frameworks and of oscillatory mechanisms underlying speech perception.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191808

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