Tuesday, December 06, 1994

Is stuttering a "vocal cord" problem?

Post directed to Martin Schwartz

Frankly, I must still be missing something. I have been waiting for "the
other shoe to drop" in terms of compelling evidence about cause and effect
(the vocal folds being the cause), but, in spite of your well thought out
separation of different types of tension at the folds and how different
combinations could be associated with different types of stuttering, I still
fail to see why that should be the CAUSE.

It seems to me that what you are saying is: that's where sounds are produced,
and certain conditions in terms of tension must be present for this production
to be enabled. If the right conditions are not present then the sound
will not come out or will repeat or whatever...i.e. stuttering.

I am biased against this view in a number of ways. The vocal chords are
the site for sound production but not for SPEECH production... The
brain is where the control commands for speech originate and that's where
I think they get screwed up, probably by the very same set of tensions you
think impair the vocal folds. My bias comes from a background in control theory
and my background as a stutterer.

>From a law of parsimony point of view it seems to me that the very sensitive
coordination of control commands required to set speech in motion is a much
more likely site of vulnerability than the much more ancient and sturdy vocal
chords. From a stutterer's point of view I must also say that I simply do
NOT feel blocked at the throat, I never have, and at this point in my life,
I have very little tension in any part of my speech apparatus. Now, I realize
how unreliable subjective "feelings" are , which is why I called this
a "bias" as opposed to "evidence".

Speaking of evidence, what do you think of the evidence cited by Woody,
which implies a speech disorder as opposed to a "sound apparatus" disorder?
This, of course, reinforces my original bias, but I hadn't been aware
of it. In particular I am intreagued by the problems in sign language.

Of course my lack of agreement in no way implies lack of appreciation
in your efforts at unraveling this nasty problem and at pushing some
sense into thick heads like mine.

No comments: