Utterance-level predictors of stuttering-like, stall, and revision disfluencies in the speech of young children who do and do not stutter

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Disfluencies are generally divided into two types: stuttering-like disfluencies (SLDs), which are characteristic of the speech of people who stutter, and typical disfluencies (TDs), which are produced by nearly all speakers. In several studies, TDs have been further divided into stalls and revisions; stalls (fillers, repetitions) are thought to be prospective, occurring due to glitches in planning upcoming words and structures, while revisions (word and phrase repetitions, word fragments) are thought to be retrospective, occurring when a speaker corrects language produced in error.This dissertation involved the analysis of 15,782 utterances produced by 32 preschool-age children who stutter (CWS) and 32 matched children who do not stutter (CWNS). The first portion of this dissertation focused on how syntactic factors relate to disfluency. Disfluencies (of all three types) were more likely to occur when utterances were ungrammatical. The disfluency types thought a priori to relate to planning (SLDs and stalls) occurred significantly more often before errors, which is consistent with these disfluencies occurring, in part, due to difficulty planning the error-containing portion of the utterance. Previous findings of a distributional dichotomy between stalls and revisions were not replicated. Both stalls and revisions increased in likelihood in ungrammatical utterances, as the length of the utterance increased, and as the language level of the child who produced the utterance increased. This unexpected result suggests that both stalls and revisions are more likely to occur in utterances that are harder to plan (those that are ungrammatical and/or longer), and that as children’s language develops, so do the skills they need to produce both stalls and revisions. The second part of this dissertation assessed the evidence base for the widespread recommendation that caregivers of young CWS should avoid asking them questions, as CWS have been thought to stutter more often when answering questions. CWS were, in fact, less likely to stutter when answering questions than in other utterance types. Given this finding, the absence of previous evidence connecting question-answering to stuttering, and the potential benefits of asking children questions, clinicians should reconsider the recommendation for caregivers of CWS to reduce their question-asking.