Speech in bilingual Parkinson’s disease patients

PIs : Serge Pinto (Aix-en-Provence, France) / Ana Nunes (Macau, SAR China)

Objectives and originality of the project

The main objective of our project is to evaluate the physiological parameters (acoustics), perceptual markers (intelligibility) and psychosocial impact of speech in Parkinson’s disease (PD), in the context of language (French vs. Portuguese) modulations. The originality of this investigation will lie upon the fact that in Macau (China), Macanese individuals are bilingual and speak Cantonese and Portuguese.

Acoustic parameters are expected to be physiologically-based, linked with the motoric and non-cognitive aspects of speech impairment (i.e. dysarthria). The same degree of impairment of such parameters should be associated with the pathology and be present universally in all patients presenting with a similar degree of disease severity, even if they speak different languages; that should be also the case of prosodic markers, which should be different in controls due to language variations, but subject to the same alteration in all PD patients. On the other hand, speech intelligibility alteration may participate to communication degradation, which in turn might result in psychosocial decline: Shall differences be expected depending on the PD patients’ language? Addressing this issue represents the core of our clinical and scientific challenge, which will compare data from two languages in order to determine whether or not PD dysarthria affects patients identically in terms of speech quality, intelligibility and communication ability. Specifically in Macau, our research objectives are:

The acquisition of a Portuguese corpus from Macanese participants, in order to assess probable prosodic differences when compared with European speakers. Firstly, we will form a reference group consisting of young and bilingual Macanese individuals who speak Portuguese. Next, we will establish a group formed by Macanese individuals age-matched with PD patients, i.e. between 60 and 70 years.

The acquisition of a “pathological” corpus with Macanese PD patients, in order to assess the impact of prosodic modulations on intelligibility, and the comparison of these data with European patients. These data will be also compared, at a later stage, with those that will be obtained from Brazilian patients. The comparison between these 3 Portuguese variants will participate to the pioneering and never described challenge trying to understand how can a tonal language (the Cantonese, in the case of Macanese individuals) interfere with the Portuguese prosodic variation and how these possible differences are still perceptible in PD patients’ speech

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