What is Dysprosody?

Dysprosody refers to the loss of normal rhythm or melody of speech. It is usually the result of neurological damage such as brain trauma, severe head injury, stroke, brain vascular damage or brain tumors.

This relates to individuals with verbal apraxia because they often have difficulty changing the pitch of their spoken messages and using appropriate word stress.

The opposite of dysprosody - Prosody - is made up of a variation in the pitch of your voice (intonation), an adjustment in vocal power (speaking loudly or softly), the flow of your speech (stressing words or phrases, pausing between words, style, and pace), and changing the quality of your voice (coarse, mumbled, clear).

Anything we say will have a different impact on our listener(s) depending upon the way we choose to express it using the features of prosody.

For example, if we are depressed about something we might speak at a slow rate with a low-pitched voice. On the other hand, if we are excited or anxious we would probably speak at a fast rate with a much higher-pitched voice.

Our attitude when speaking is also made known through prosody (confidence, sincerity, confusion, indifference). For example, we’re all familiar with a sarcastic comment.

We are aware of the sarcasm because of the change in the speaker’s normal vocal quality. That specific change lets us know that they’re being critical instead of approving - regardless of the words they speak.

Our opinions about a person’s sincerity, kindness, capabilities and overall mood are frequently made by simply listening to their voice. It can also give us clues about their age, sexual orientation, and character.

Prosody and Personal Identity

Prosody is also a part of our personal identity. We each have a unique speaking style of our own which is easily recognized by those around us. For example, we can all identify our family and friends just by the sound of their voice. This is true for famous people as well. For our seasoned readers you’ll remember the famous sports announcer, Howard Cosell and his unmistakable speaking pattern. He is a perfect example of how prosody provides individuality.

Prosody is the noticeable characteristics of our speech and provides a lot of information to our listeners. When prosody is missing (dysprosody), we can often leave listeners wondering what the meaning of our message actually was.

Speech-language pathologists use intonation training to provide patients with verbal apraxia the practice they need to relearn this important communication skill.

It is remarkable how much of our communication depends on it!

See our speech therapy DVDs that provide training for dysprosody at home!