The syntactic complexity in tracheoesophageal speech: A pilot study about complexity of grammar in verbal communication after total laryngectomy.

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Background: Studies about the language and speech of patients after total laryngectomy (TL) have investigated the vocal quality and intelligibility and the language network in the brains of these patients. The language structure of such patients has never been analyzed before. Aims and research question: The aims of this study are to discover if alaryngeal speech is a constraint affecting linguistic complexity and to generate hypotheses about the syntactic complexity in speech of persons who underwent TL and use tracheoesophageal speech (TES) as speech rehabilitation method. The main research question is: Does the syntactic complexity of speech change after TL? Method: Speech data from eight TES-patients and eight healthy controls (HCs), gathered from interviews and dialogs, are used. The syntactic complexity is measured at the level of the C-unit, clause, and noun phrase by calculating the mean length of the units and percentages of simple and complex units. Results: The results show that the syntactic complexity of the TES-patients seems to be low overall, but differs between the TES-patients, which could possibly be due to different levels of intelligibility and maybe due to the different number of years using TES or the age at TL. The HCs seems to have a more complex syntax than the TES-patients, which could be due to the fact that HCs have a longer maximum phonation time than TES-patients. Conclusion: It can be concluded that the syntactic complexity of speech does change (even though it seems not by much) after TL. Alaryngeal speech is a constraint affecting linguistic complexity. Factors that could influence syntactic complexity in speech are: intelligibility, number of years using TES as speech method, age at TL, and maximum phonation time.
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