Cross-cultural Examination of Speech Prosody Differences in Autistic People

Study finds that autistic people have speech rhythm differences across languages.

A machine-learning study suggests that certain speech differences related to autism are universal across languages while others are specific to a particular language. The study was published in PLOS One and involved separate samples of English-speaking speakers and Cantonese-speaking speakers.

Autism spectrum disorder is frequently accompanied by speech prosody differences. Speech prosody is a term that describes the aspects of speech like rhythm and intonation that allow us to express our emotions and convey meaning through our words. Atypical speech prosody may interfere with communication and social skills, such as causing someone to misunderstand another person or misunderstand themselves. It is still not known why autistic individuals have speech differences.

The study author Joseph C. Y. Lau wanted to shed some light on the topic by examining prosodic features that are associated with autism in two languages of different typology.

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Autistic people demonstrate speech rhythm differences that are consistent across languages, study finds