Visual prosody supports reading aloud expressively for deaf readers
Keywords:type design, visual prosody, prosody, deaf readers, expressive reading, reading comprehension
Type is a wonderful tool to represent speech visually. Therefore, it can provide deaf individuals the information that they miss auditorily. Still, type does not represent all the information available in speech: it misses an exact indication of prosody. Prosody is the motor of expressive speech through speech variations in loudness, duration, and pitch. The speech of deaf readers
is often less expressive because deafness impedes the perception and production of prosody. Support can be provided by visual cues that provide information about prosody—visual prosody—supporting both the training of speech variations and expressive reading.
We will describe the influence of visual prosody on the reading expressiveness of deaf readers between age 7 and 18 (in this study, ‘deaf readers’ means persons with any kind of hearing loss, with or without hearing devices, who still developed legible speech). A total of seven cues visualize speech variations: a thicker/thinner font corresponds with a louder/quieter voice; a wider/narrower font relates to a lower/faster speed; a font raised above/lowered below the baseline suggests a higher/lower pitch; wider spaces between words suggest longer pauses.
We evaluated the seven cues with questionnaires and a reading aloud test. Deaf readers relate most cues to the intended
speech variation and read most of them aloud correctly. Only the raised cue is di#cult to connect to the intended speech variation at first, and a faster speed and lower pitch prove challenging to vocalize. Despite those two difficulties, this approach to visual prosody is elective in supporting speech prosody. The applied materials can form an example for typographers, type designers, graphic designers, teachers, speech therapists, and researchers developing expressive reading materials.