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Influence of Language on Speech Impairments in Parkinson's Disease: Adding Cantonese to the FRALUSOPARK Project

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Speech Therapy Unit, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, (Hong Kong)

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Parole : Contraintes, Variations et Structures

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In this proposed project, we aim to add Cantonese in this cross-linguistic research on PD, to further enrich the FRALUSOPARK project led by French PI (Serge Pinto) and funded by ANR in France (project number: ANR-13-ISH2-0001-01). Cantonese offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate our central hypothesis, due to its key feature of being a tonal language with six contrastive tones that signal meaning differences. Given that monopitch is considered a hallmark feature of hypokinetic dysarthria associated with PD patients in general, but pitch variations are important to distinguish meaning between words for tonal languages in particular, how would lexical tone production precision and intelligibility be influenced in PD patients speaking Cantonese?
There has been very limited published work studying lexical tone production in Cantonese PD patients. Studying Cantonese allows a test of at least two opposing hypotheses. One hypothesis is that degradation of patients' speech intelligibility is exacerbated in Cantonese, because pitch contrasts that are relevant for distinguishing meanings in a tonal language risk being lost. Thus, the prediction is that there is significant differentiation between patients and normal controls. An alternative hypothesis is that since tone is acquired early and is a highly practiced skill, it is less vulnerable to impairment. Thus the prediction is that speech intelligibility of patients could be preserved and is not compromised by reduced pitch variation, with little differentiation between patients and normal controls. This finding will also further support any hypothesis about the dissociation of control for lexical tone and intonation.

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