CSS and Children: Research Results and Future Directions

CSS and Children: Research Results and Future Directions

Kathryn D.R. Drager (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Joe Reichle (University of Minnesota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-725-1.ch008


Currently, many computer-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems use speech output, either synthesized or digitized speech. The goal of this chapter is to provide a review of the research to date on computerized synthesized speech (CSS) with children. Information on the intelligibility and comprehension of CSS for children is presented, and the variables that may affect these, including context, speech rate, age of the child, the language(s) spoken by the listener, experience with CSS, and background noise. Each of these factors and the research support with child participants are discussed. The intelligibility of digitized speech is also discussed. Additionally, this chapter will address the attitudes and preferences of children regarding CSS, as well as hypotheses about the role that CSS may play for children with significant communication disabilities that require AAC. Finally, future research priorities are presented.
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A processing constraint model has driven the majority of research examining the intelligibility and listener comprehension of CSS with adults. Theoretically, humans have a finite capacity for attention (Moray, 1967), with the brain allocating these resources across tasks. Tasks that require a large amount of processing resources will be completed at the expense of other tasks. Natural speech is characterized by redundant acoustic cues (Klatt, 1987). The information from the natural speech signal is rich, and little attention needs to be allocated by the listener for speech perception. In contrast, synthesized speech contains very few of these redundant cues, requiring increased processing resources for perception (Duffy & Pisoni, 1992). Fewer resources remain for comprehension and other higher order processing, and few remain for any other demands in communication interactions. Children, however, are working within the constraints of a more limited working memory capacity than adults (Case, 1985; Dempster, 1981). The limited capacity will impact the attentional resources available for deciphering synthesized speech. Thus, it may not be possible to generalize the results of research on speech output with adults as listeners.

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