Linguistic Influences on Stuttering

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There is ample evidence that stuttering events are influenced by linguistic variables. Brown (1945) was perhaps the first researcher to suggest linguistic influences on stuttering events with his groundbreaking report of apparent influences of a word's grammatical form class (i.e., content versus function word) on stuttering loci in adults who stuttered. In brief, Brown reported that adults who stuttered were significantly more likely to be disfluent on content words (e.g., nouns and verbs) than on function words (e.g., prepositions and pronouns).

Since Brown's seminal work, researchers have continually refined analyses in the study of linguistic influences on stuttering. We now know, for example, that young children are generally more likely to stutter on sentences of greater grammatical complexity than on sentences of less grammatical complexity (Logan and Conture, 1995; Yaruss, 1999). Furthermore, the content-function variable appears not to be the most relevant influence on stuttering loci; instead, stuttering events are significantly more likely on either a content word or on a phrase-initial function word that precedes a content word than in other phrasal locations (Au-Yeung, Howell, and Pilgrim, 1998). The underlying influence here is thought to be the planning unit in language formulation, such that disfluencies are significantly more likely to occur at the beginning of a language planning unit, when remaining components of the unit continue to be refined for production.

These findings reveal that aspects of language planning, formulation, and production exert an influence on stuttering for children and adults. These findings support the view that linguistic variables are relevant in characterizing stuttering events. It is noteworthy, however, that linguistic factors appear to influence disfluencies in the same way for stutterers and nonstutterers alike. That is, linguistic variables such as grammatical complexity and the loci of stuttering tend to influence individuals whose disfluencies occur at typical rates in language production as well as individuals whose disfluencies are frequent enough to yield identification as a ''stutterer.''

The domain of language is relevant in the study of early childhood stuttering. The majority of young children who stutter display expressive language abilities at or above normative expectations. In addition, a number of linguistic variables, such as the grammatical complexity of an utterance, exert an influence on the likelihood of a stuttering event. It may be informative for future investigation in this area of inquiry to move toward detailed and specific analyses of profiles of language strength and evaluation of synchrony versus asynchrony within and across developmental domains.

See also speech disfLuEncy and stuttering in chlLdREn.

—Ruth V. Watkins References

Anderson, J., and Conture, E. (2000). Language abilities of children who stutter: A preliminary study. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 25, 283-304. Au-Yeung, J., Howell, P., and Pilgrim, L. (1998). Phonological words and stuttering on function words. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 1019-1030. Brown, S. F. (1945). The loci of stutterings in the speech sequence. Journal of Speech Disorders, 10, 181-192. Logan, K. J., and Conture, E. G. (1995). Length, grammatical complexity, and rate differences in stuttered and fluent conversational utterances of children who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 20, 35-61. Miles, S., and Ratner, N. B. (2001). Parental language input to children at stuttering onset. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 1116-1130. Nippold, M. (1990). Concomitant speech and language disorders in stuttering children: A critique of the literature. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55, 51-60. Perkins, W. H., Kent, R. D., and Curlee, R. F. (1991). A theory of neuropsycholinguistic function in stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 734-752. Postma, A., and Kolk, H. (1993). The covert repair hypothesis: Prearticulatory repair processes in normal and stuttered disfluencies. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 36, 472-487.

Ratner, N. B. (1997). Stuttering: A psycholinguistic perspective. In R. Curlee and G. Siegel (Eds.), Nature and treatment of stuttering: New directions (2nd ed., pp. 99-127). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Rommel, D., Hage, A., Kalehne, P., and Johannsen, H. S. (1999). Developmental, maintenance, and recovery of childhood stuttering: Prospective longitudinal data 3 years after first contact. In K. Baker, L. Rustin, and K. Baker (Eds.), Proceedings of the Fifth Oxford Disfluency Conference. Berkshire, U.K.: Chappel Gardner. Watkins, R. V., and Yairi, E. (1997). Language production abilities of children whose stuttering persisted or recovered. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 40, 385399.

Watkins, R. V., Yairi, E., and Ambrose, N. G. (1999). Early childhood stuttering: III. Initial status of expressive language abilities. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 1125-1135.

Wingate, M. (1988). The structure of stuttering: A psycholin-guistic perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Wingate, M. (2001). SLD is not stuttering. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 381-383.

Yairi, E. (1983). The onset of stuttering in two- and three-year-old children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 48, 171-177.

Yairi, E., Watkins, R. V., Ambrose, N. G., and Paden, E. (2001). What is stuttering? Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 384-390.

Yaruss, S. (1999). Utterance length, syntactic complexity, and childhood stuttering. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 329-344.

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