Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can you detect past stuttering?

Let's assume I give you speech samples of 100 stutterers, 100 "recovered stutterers", 100 people who stuttered as children, and 100 "normal" people, but I wont tell you who is who. Can you accurately put them in the right category?

I would guess that the distinction becomes clearer the more demanding the speaking situation: from reading to talking while doing other tasks.

I believe that you can distinguish the "recovered stutterers" vs "normal" people quite accurately. I often hear "recovered stutterers" who are fluent and communicate well, but still you can sense they struggle more and speak more controlled, less spontaneous and ironically too fluent without natural disfluencies!! :-)

The interesting question is whether you can distinguish between people who stuttered as children and those you didn't stutter as children. Is it possible to detect a difference? I guess that it might be possible but only by severely stressing their brains... If it is not possible, either stuttering is just a learned behaviour or the brain completely compensates for a weakness.


Einar said...

Hm, I'm enjoying your mental exercises... How about this one: 2 stutterers travel with the speed of light in opposing directions, how will relativity impact on their stuttering?... Doesn't make any sense? Hm, ok I think I won't suggest any more of such exercises... ;-))
But seriously now, back to your initial question. What bothers me is the comparison between stutterers, recovered stutterers and "normal" people. I mean how do you define each "category". Where does stuttering start? I've seen people talk, some "normal" people who speak with such a disfluency that I would actually want to call them stutterers, but probably they're not stutterers. When can you define someone as recovered? Is that recovery permanent? How much disfluency must your speech include to qualify as stuttering?
Really enjoying those mental exercises, even if I'm probably not a big help in resolving them, lol... Please bring on some more :-)

Tom Weidig said...

By "recovered stutterer", I mean someone who stuttered before but by his own admission does not stutter anymore in most situations. But they still say that speaking is hard work. I guess... not very scientific definition.. :-)