Hesitations are often used by speakers in spontaneous speech not only to organise and prepare their speech but also to address any obstacles that may arise during delivery. Given the relationship between hesitation phenomena and motor and/or cognitive–linguistic control deficits, characterising the form of hesitation could be potentially useful in diagnosing specific speech and language disorders, such as primary progressive aphasia (PPA). This work aims to analyse the features of hesitations in patients with PPA compared to healthy speakers, with hesitations understood here as those related to speech planning, that is, silent or empty pauses, filled pauses, and lengthened syllables. Forty-three adults took part in this experiment, of whom thirty-two suffered from some form of PPA: thirteen from logopenic PPA (lvPPA), ten from nonfluent PPA (nfvPPA), and nine from semantic PPA (svPPA). The remaining 11 were healthy speakers who served as a control group. An analysis of audio data recorded when participants produced spontaneous speech for a picture description task showed that the frequency of silent pauses, especially those classified as long (>1000 ms) was particularly useful to distinguish PPA participants from healthy controls and also to differentiate among PPA types. This was also true, albeit to a lesser extent, of the frequency of filled pauses and lengthened syllables.
- primary progressive aphasia (PPA)