Dysprosody: symptoms, causes and treatment

Dysprosody is an alteration in the pronunciation and intonation of wordsThe cause has been linked to significant neurological damage. This is one of the manifestations of foreign accent syndrome, although it also occurs in people with Parkinson’s disease, among others. It is also an alteration that has allowed us to study the relationships between language, emotional state, emotional processing and communication.

Below we will see what is in dysprosody and what are its main features.

    What is dysprosody?

    The term “dysprosody” is made up, on the one hand, of the word “dis” which means separation, divergence or difficulty. And on the other hand, it consists of the word “prosody”, which in grammar is the branch responsible for teaching the correct pronunciation and stressing of words.

    In phonology, prosody studies the phonetic characteristics that affect metrics, For example the rhythm or the structure of the verses, but especially the accents and intonation.

    Thus, dysprosody is the difficulty pronouncing or singing words correctly. It is characterized by alterations in the intensity, pauses, rhythm, cadence and intonation of words. As such, the person with dysprosodium can understand language and vocalize desired responses, however, it is difficult for them to control how they speak those responses.

    Dysprosody and foreign accent syndrome

    One of the most studied conditions in this regard is foreign accent syndrome, which consists of sudden pronunciation with unusual tone and emphasis.

    In fact, the first studies on dysprosody are also the first studies done with this syndrome. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French neurologist Pierre Marie studied the case of a woman who, after suffering a heart attack, he drastically and suddenly changed his intonation.

    Although there have been few cases, since then similar cases have been reported, which have now led to the study of the relationship between hemiplegia and speech disorders.

    Other conditions in which dysprosody can manifest itself are Parkinson’s disease (in this case it has actually been extensively studied), autism spectrum disorder in certain types of depression and schizophrenia.

      Difference between dysprosody and prosodic disability

      As manifested by a significant change in intonation and pronunciation, dysprosody it can be confused with the expression of a certain mood or even with difficulty processing emotional information. However, this is not necessarily the case.

      Important terms have emerged to differentiate between dysprosody and affective treatment. One of them is “prosodic handicap”.

      While dysprosody refers to the lack of physical and / or linguistic means to indicate the affective state through intonation; prosodic disability refers to the opposite phenomenon: a previous “affective deficit” it can be reflected through atypical prosodic patterns (Gallardo and Moreno, 2010).

      the causes

      The causes of dysprosody have been mainly attributed to severe neurological damage. The most studied have been brain tumors and trauma, usually caused by stroke, although in some cases they have also been associated with brain and / or head trauma.

      However cases of dysprosody have also been reported after laryngeal surgeries, Which may indicate that there is not necessarily a purely neurological etiology.

      Recently, dysprosody has been explained by cognitive-affective functions related to cortical areas of the right cerebral hemisphere. And even more recently, he has started to study the involvement of subcortical structure and the relationship of prosody with communication and emotional processing in different syndromes.

      Types of dysprosody

      From the above, two main types of dysprosody emerged, with also differential symptoms, linguistic-type dysprosody and emotional-type dysprosody. Each of these types refers to changes in the person’s individual speech, and far from being exclusive manifestations, the two types are generally closely related.

      1.language-type dysprosody

      This is altered intention of speech, Mainly due to verbal variations. For example, it may be difficult for the person to ask a question other than a statement, making it difficult to communicate with other people. He also has difficulty emphasizing certain words or revealing the intention of a phrase.

      2.emotional dysprosody

      It is characterized by a difficulty transmitting or expressing emotions through speech, And can sometimes include difficulty understanding the emotions that are conveyed in the speech of others, precisely because of large changes in intonation and difficulty controlling them.

      The severity of emotional dysprosody can vary depending on the neurological damage, and as we have already said, this does not mean that the person has lost the ability to experience emotions, but that there is difficulty in them. express and / or understand them. . The latter was particularly important for understanding various psychiatric or neurological diagnoses such as those we have mentioned throughout this text.


      Dysprosody, in particular of a linguistic nature, it is usually assessed and treated with language therapy. In particular, including exercises in identifying prosodic signals in natural situations, i.e. by practicing daily conversations.

      Although its effects on emotional-type dysprosium are less promising, there are also strategies to improve emotional expression that complement language therapy.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Caekebeke, JF, Schinkel-Jennekens, A., van der Linder, ME, Bruruma, OJ and Ross, RA (1991). Interpretation of dysprosody in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neurologycal, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 54 (2): 145-148.
      • Gallardo, B. and Moreno, V. (eds.). (2010). Studies in clinical linguistics. Volume 5. Clinical applications. University of Valence: Valence.
      • Sidtis, JJ and Van Lancker, D. (2003). A neurobehavioural approach to dysprosody. Speech and Language Seminars, 24 (2): 93-105.
      • Pell, M. (1999). Fundamental frequency coding of linguistic and emotional prosody for damaged speakers in the right hemisphere. Brain and language. 69 (2): 161-92.

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