PEPS-C Profiling Elements of Prosodic Systems in Children

A group of researchers at Queen Margaret University College (Edinburgh) have developed a way of assessing prosody using computer-based tasks.
“Profiling Elements of Prosodic Systems - Children” (PEPS-C) was developed from a procedure for assessing prosody in adults. The test is useful for assessing any individual from 5 years of age who is suspected of having an expressive and/or receptive prosodic disorder. It can be used by Speech and Language Therapists and other related professionals.

The new computerised version is available in four accent varieties: Standard Scottish English (Edinburgh), Southern British English, North American English and Australian English. Foreign language versions (e.g. Spanish, French) are being developed. The Scottish version has norms available for 120 typically developing Scottish children aged 5 to 14. The research version of the test has recently been revised to make it more accessible for clinicians.

Prosody is involved in a wide range of more or less well defined communicative functions; for PEPS-C, we selected four where intonation and prosody are generally agreed to have an important role: turn-end type, affect, chunking and focus. Each area is assessed in terms of input (comprehension) and output (expression) skills. Auditory discrimination and production ability are assessed using form tasks.

Turn-End Type
The distinction between a question with rising pitch and a statement with falling pitch is used. For the input task children are required to listen to single words (food items) and decide whether they sound like questions, i.e. if the person on the computer was “asking them if they want some”; or if they sound like statements, i.e. if the person was “just telling them what the food is”. For the output task the child is required to produce this distinction. "Apple" "Apple?"

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The distinction between liking and disliking a food-item is used. The names of the food-items are said with (generally) a rise-fall for “likes” and a fall-rise for “dislikes”. Again, the child is then required to produce this distinction. Happy Sad

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Comprehending and producing syntactically ambiguous sentences which are disambiguated by prosody, e.g. 'chocolate-biscuits and jam' versus 'chocolate, biscuits and jam': perceiving and then producing this distinction.

Chcolate-biscuits and jam Chocolate, biscuits and jam

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- sometimes called “contrastive stress”. Children are asked to identify which item the person on the computer forgot to buy, from phrases such as “I wanted BLUE and black socks”, where the focus (stress) is on “blue”. Blue Black

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The output task involves the same distinction but requires the child to listen to a football commentator and correct his comments. For example, a red cow appears on the computer screen but the commentator says, “Now the red sheep’s got the ball”. The required response is “No, the red COW’s got the ball”, stressing the word that the commentator got wrong.
Red Cow

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Form Tasks.

Form tasks are designed to assess whether a child has the underlying skills required to complete the above ‘function’ tasks.

The input form tasks are designed to test whether a child has the auditory ability to distinguish between different types of intonation/prosody. The stimuli are laryngograph signals, which sound rather like humming, taken from the recordings of a selection of the input function tasks. The child is asked to make same/different judgements.
Same Different

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The output form tasks are a way of eliciting a child’s ability to produce the different types of intonation and prosody. In this task the child is asked to repeat words “exactly as they hear them from the computer”.

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For more information about PEPS-C please contact Sue Peppe.

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Prosody and Autism Spectrum Disorders.