Theoretical Framework: Manipulations of prosodic structure influence how listeners interpret syntactically ambiguous utterances. However, the prosody-syntax interface has received very little attention in languages other than English and so far it has only been studied in individuals with typical language development. A variety of populations with communication disorders share deficits in sentence comprehension and until now these deficits have been attributed only to syntax. Another important point is that up until now, the relationship between prosody and syntax has been studied and using only the traditional behavioral analysis. The need for more experimental conditions is clear. The use of research methods involving real-time processing has been a recent and important research focus at the most important research centers in the world. Along with the scientific advance of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, also grows the need of studies that investigate not only the final behavioral response of the participant but also all the process that led the participant to that decision. Reaction-time measures are techniques used to investigate the real-time processing (processing speed) that are currently in great use and continually to grow internationally. Purposes: To experimentally compare through behavioral and real-time processing measures, the ability of children with communication disorders in using prosodic information to comprehend syntactically ambiguous sentences. Hypotheses: Two hypotheses will be tested on the behavioral analysis: Absolute Boundary Hypothesis and Relative Boundary Hypothesis. The Generalized Slowing Hypothesis will be tested on the real-time processing analysis. Method: Participants: A total of 120 subjects will participate in the study. Participants will compose two main groups: children with communication disorders (GCD) and children with typical language development (GTD). Participants of GCD will compose six subgroups of 15 children each, as follows: specific language impairment, stuttering, phonological disorder, auditory processing disorder, hearing aid and cochlear implant. Participants of GTD will compose one group of 30 children matched by age (±3 months), IQ, gender, and social economic status to each subgroup of GCD. Equipment: Target sentences will be recorded on the software Praat and presented through high definition speakers. The visual stimuli (figures) will be created on the software Adobe Illustrator CS6. The experiment will be designed on E-Prime and a Response Box will be used for response collection. A notebook will be used for presentation and precision and reaction time data collection. Procedure: On a sentence comprehension task, participants will listen to a series of syntactically ambiguous sentences with different prosodic characteristics. Two possible interpretations will be offered (two figures). Participants should select one of the two interpretations by pressing the respective button. Data Analysis: For the behavioral data, the number of correct responses will be analyzed according to the predictions of each hypothesis. For the real-time processing analysis, the reaction times (in milliseconds) for each response will be considered. Binomial Test, Kolmogorov-Smirnov, ANOVA or Friedman ANOVA will be used on the inferential analyses.
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