About the presenter : Joseph Kalinowski is a professor at East Carolina University. He received a master's degree from Northeastern University and his doctorate degree from the University of Connecticut, during which he conducted research at Haskins Laboratories. Dr. Kalinowski has over 80 peer-reviewed journal publications in fluency disorders and speech science, is co-author of a textbook in stuttering with Dr. Tim Saltuklaroglu, and is a co-inventor of the SpeechEasy device with Dr. Andrew Stuart and Dr. Michael Rastatter.


Speech Rate Control: A web-based application

by Joseph Kalinowski
from North Carolina, USA

This is a simple rate control program.

Rate control is a very effective motoric strategy for reducing or inhibiting dysfluencies (Bloodstein & Ratner, 2006). Some researchers and theorists suggest that by slowing down speech rate one reduces the temporal complexity and demands on the speech production system and this "slowing" allows for a less stressed system that's able to produce speech more fluently (e.g., Kent, 1984, Starkweather, 1987). While our research group suggests (Kalinowski & Saltuklaroglu, 2006) that reducing speech rate decreases dysfluencies by generating in inhibitory signal (i.e., prolonged speech) that is used by the neural system to suppress current and oncoming dysfluent events. This notion is similar, in some sense, to Van Riper's pullouts (1973), with the difference being that the prolongations occur at predetermined locations even when stuttering is not anticipated.

In the first strategy, speech rate is controlled throughout speech production with the goal of a consistent slowed rate throughout all utterances desired. In the "constant rate control strategy", persons who exhibit dysfluencies are asked to produce speech at a consistently slowed rate throughout all speech, there is no priority given to any location or sound class within an utterance. This strategy, while often effective in decreasing discrete dysfluencies (repetitions and or blocks), may generate issues with speech unnaturalness, increased effort and stability over time. Nonetheless, there are persons who have dysfluencies that may be best served by constant prolongation of syllables throughout an utterance, for these individuals, the program can be used to slow speech throughout an utterance.

In the second strategy, rate control occurs intermittingly (more like dysfluencies) and the focus is on stretching or prolonging voiced continuants or vowels while attempting to produce other sounds in the utterance at a relatively normal rate. The program we developed can be used to prolong vowels only or one can or use it used to slow speech throughout the utterance with no priority given to location or sound class. We suggest that users "play around " with the program and identify what is best suited for their needs. Of course, we suggest that those with speech disorders seek professional advice from a certified speech-language pathologist to ensure this program is compatible with the goals of therapy.

This is a relatively simple program that generates scrolling text from prepared passages, most of which that we have used our experimental protocols. The application was developed with persons who stutter in mind, so it's applicability for others with different types fluency disorders that may have different characteristics or etiologies needs to be determined by speech clinicians and those who exhibit other types of fluency problems. My colleagues and I offer this introduction to the program as a tool of examination for those it may help.

Users are allowed to choose various stories from a pull down menu that contains 8-10 passages or they may inset their own text via "cut and paste" methods. Users are directed to read the aforementioned passages aloud stretching the highlighted red text that is followed by an arrow or by slowing the whole utterance, as preferred. Scrolling text speed can be increased or decreased via the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard (not those on your keypad). The scrolling text rate ranges from 1-30, in step intervals. The difficulty level or the frequency of vowels prolongations varies for 1 to 3, with 1 having the most frequent vowels highlighted for prolongation and 3 having the least.

Our web site : http://www.speechrate.com/ [Note: in 2023 this site no longer exists.]

On a final note, many PWS have reported that using the application for short periods (8-10 minutes) every day generates a carryover effect that allows them to be more fluent even when not concentrating on rate control per se. We will need to investigate the validity of these claims and the underlying mechanism in the future.



Bloodstein, O., & Bernstein-Ratner, N. (2008). A handbook on stuttering (6th ed.). New York: Delmar.

Kalinowski, J., & Saltuklaroglu, T. (2006). Stuttering (1st ed.). San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.

Kent, R. D. (1984). Stuttering as a temporal programming disorder. In R. F. Curlee & W. H. Perkins (Eds.), Nature and treatment of stuttering: New directions (pp. 283-301). San Diego: College Hill Press.

Starkweather, C.W. (1987). Fluency and stuttering . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Van Riper, C. (1973). The treatment of stuttering . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


SUBMITTED: March 14, 2010

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