While motoric aspects of stuttering such as speech motor control have received considerable attention, developing lines of evidence suggest that linguistic variables such as syntax, semantics and phonology may also contribute to stuttering. At present, no completely satisfactory theory exists for the separate occurrence of childhood stuttering and difficulties with linguistic processing (e.g., lexical storage and/or retrieval), much less their common co-occurrence. Developing such theory, one might assume that disruptions in linguistic planning of speech-language production contribute to stuttering and that such disruptions are most likely temporal in nature given that stuttering is, by definition, a disruption in the rhythm or fluency of speech. Based on these assumptions, it could be speculated that the linguistic planning for speech-language production of people who stutter is slow, perhaps dyssynchronous, a possibility that may contribute to the overt hesitations, repetitions, and stoppages in speech that comprise the sine qua non of stuttering. Thus, the specific aims of the project are to assess differences in speech reaction time between children who do and do not stutter during conditions where speed of syntactic, semantic and phonological activation has been experimentally manipulated by priming procedures during picture-naming or picture description tasks. The possibility that subgroups exist among these children, based on their performance on these tasks as well as standardized tests, will also be explored through appropriate multivariate statistical procedures. Furthermore, the influence of these priming procedures will be studied for children with high-normal versus low-normal syntactic, semantic and phonologic abilities. Finally, the relationship between aspects of stuttering (e.g., most common disfluency type) and changes in speech reaction time during these experimental tasks will also be studied. Findings will have important theoretical implications regarding linguistic contributions to stuttering in children and help ground stuttering within the broader context of (ab)normal speech and language development as well as inform diagnostic and treatment protocols for childhood stuttering.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-7 (01))
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Shekim, Lana O
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
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