Henry S. Cheang

McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Publications (11)14.14 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Our study assessed how non-demented patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) interpret the affective and mental states of others from spoken language (adopt a “Theory of Mind”) in ecologically-valid social contexts. A secondary goal was to examine the relationship between emotion processing, mentalizing, and executive functions in PD during interpersonal communication. Method: Fifteen adults with PD and 16 healthy adults completed “The Awareness of Social Inference Test" (TASIT), a standardized tool comprised of videotaped vignettes of everyday social interactions (McDonald, Flanagan, Rollins, & Kinch, 2003). Individual subtests assessed participants’ ability to recognize basic emotions and to infer speaker intentions (sincerity, lies, sarcasm) from verbal and nonverbal cues, and to judge speaker knowledge, beliefs, and feelings. A comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation was also conducted. Results: Patients with mild-moderate PD were impaired in the ability to infer ‘enriched’ social intentions, such as sarcasm or lies, from non-literal remarks; in contrast, adults with and without PD showed a similar capacity to recognize emotions and social intentions meant to be literal. In the PD group, difficulties using Theory of Mind to draw complex social inferences were significantly correlated with limitations in working memory and executive functioning. Conclusions: In early PD, functional compromise of the frontal–striatal-dorsal system yields impairments in social perception and understanding non-literal speaker intentions that draw upon cognitive Theory of Mind. Deficits in social perception in PD are exacerbated by a decline in executive resources, which could hamper the strategic deployment of attention to multiple information sources necessary to infer social intentions.
    Neuropsychology 03/2014; · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    Henry S. Cheang, Marc D. Pell
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    ABSTRACT: The goal of the present research was to determine whether certain speaker intentions conveyed through prosody in an unfamiliar language can be accurately recognized. English and Cantonese utterances expressing sarcasm, sincerity, humorous irony, or neutrality through prosody were presented to English and Cantonese listeners unfamiliar with the other language. Listeners identified the communicative intent of utterances in both languages in a crossed design. Participants successfully identified sarcasm spoken in their native language but identified sarcasm at near-chance levels in the unfamiliar language. Both groups were relatively more successful at recognizing the other attitudes when listening to the unfamiliar language (in addition to the native language). Our data suggest that while sarcastic utterances in Cantonese and English share certain acoustic features, these cues are insufficient to recognize sarcasm between languages; rather, this ability depends on (native) language experience.
    Pragmatics & Cognition 12/2010; 19(2):203-223. · 0.67 Impact Factor
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    Henry S Cheang, Marc D Pell
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    ABSTRACT: The goal of this study was to identify acoustic parameters associated with the expression of sarcasm by Cantonese speakers, and to compare the observed features to similar data on English [Cheang, H. S. and Pell, M. D. (2008). Speech Commun. 50, 366-381]. Six native Cantonese speakers produced utterances to express sarcasm, humorous irony, sincerity, and neutrality. Each utterance was analyzed to determine the mean fundamental frequency (F0), F0-range, mean amplitude, amplitude-range, speech rate, and harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR) (to probe voice quality changes). Results showed that sarcastic utterances in Cantonese were produced with an elevated mean F0, and reductions in amplitude- and F0-range, which differentiated them most from sincere utterances. Sarcasm was also spoken with a slower speech rate and a higher HNR (i.e., less vocal noise) than the other attitudes in certain linguistic contexts. Direct Cantonese-English comparisons revealed one major distinction in the acoustic pattern for communicating sarcasm across the two languages: Cantonese speakers raised mean F0 to mark sarcasm, whereas English speakers lowered mean F0 in this context. These findings emphasize that prosody is instrumental for marking non-literal intentions in speech such as sarcasm in Cantonese as well as in other languages. However, the specific acoustic conventions for communicating sarcasm seem to vary among languages.
    The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 10/2009; 126(3):1394-405. · 1.65 Impact Factor
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    Laura Monetta, Henry S Cheang, Marc D Pell
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    ABSTRACT: The ability to interpret vocal (prosodic) cues during social interactions can be disrupted by Parkinson's disease, with notable effects on how emotions are understood from speech. This study investigated whether PD patients who have emotional prosody deficits exhibit further difficulties decoding the attitude of a speaker from prosody. Vocally inflected but semantically nonsensical 'pseudo-utterances' were presented to listener groups with and without PD in two separate rating tasks. Task I required participants to rate how confident a speaker sounded from their voice and Task 2 required listeners to rate how polite the speaker sounded for a comparable set of pseudo-utterances. The results showed that PD patients were significantly less able than HC participants to use prosodic cues to differentiate intended levels of speaker confidence in speech, although the patients could accurately detect the politelimpolite attitude of the speaker from prosody in most cases. Our data suggest that many PD patients fail to use vocal cues to effectively infer a speaker's emotions as well as certain attitudes in speech such as confidence, consistent with the idea that the basal ganglia play a role in the meaningful processing of prosodic sequences in spoken language (Pell & Leonard, 2003).
    Journal of Neuropsychology 09/2008; 2(Pt 2):415-30. · 2.44 Impact Factor
  • Henry S. Cheang
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    ABSTRACT: Three studies were conducted to examine the acoustic markers of sarcasm in English and in Cantonese, and the manner in which such markers are perceived across these languages. The first study consisted of acoustic analyses of sarcastic utterances spoken in English to verify whether particular prosodic cues correspond to English sarcastic speech. Native English speakers produced utterances expressing sarcasm, sincerity, humour, or neutrality. Measures taken from each utterance included fundamental frequency (F0), amplitude, speech rate, harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR, to probe voice quality), and one-third octave spectral values (to probe resonance). The second study was conducted to ascertain whether specific acoustic features marked sarcasm in Cantonese and how such features compare with English sarcastic prosody. The elicitation and acoustic analysis methods from the first study were applied to similarly-constructed Cantonese utterances spoken by native Cantonese speakers. Direct acoustic comparisons between Cantonese and English sarcasm exemplars were also made. To further test for cross-linguistic prosodic cues of sarcasm and to assess whether sarcasm could be conveyed across languages, a cross-linguistic perceptual study was then performed. A subset of utterances from the first two studies was presented to naive listeners fluent in either Cantonese or English. Listeners had to identify the attitude in each utterance regardless of language of presentation. Sarcastic utterances in English (regardless of text) were marked by lower mean F0 and reductions in HNR and F0 standard deviation (relative to comparison attitudes). Resonance changes, reductions in both speech rate and F0 range signalled sarcasm in conjunction with some vocabulary terms. By contrast, higher mean F0, amplitude range reductions, and F0 range restrictions corresponded with sarcastic utterances spoken in Cantonese regardless of text. For Cantonese, reduced speech rate and higher HNR interacted with certain vocabulary to mark sarcasm. Sarcastic prosody was most distinguished from acoustic features corresponding to sincere utterances in both languages. Direct English-Cantonese comparisons between sarcasm tokens confirmed cross-linguistic differences in sarcastic prosody. Finally, Cantonese and English listeners could identify sarcasm in their native languages but identified sarcastic utterances spoken in the unfamiliar language at chance levels. It was concluded that particular acoustic cues marked sarcastic speech in Cantonese and English, and these patterns of sarcastic prosody were specific to each language.
    01/2008;
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    Henry S. Cheang, Marc D. Pell
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    ABSTRACT: The present study was conducted to identify possible acoustic cues of sarcasm. Native English speakers produced a variety of simple utterances to convey four different attitudes: sarcasm, humour, sincerity, and neutrality. Following validation by a separate naïve group of native English speakers, the recorded speech was subjected to acoustic analyses for the following features: mean fundamental frequency (F0), F0 standard deviation, F0 range, mean amplitude, amplitude range, speech rate, harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR, to probe for voice quality changes), and one-third octave spectral values (to probe resonance changes). The results of analyses indicated that sarcasm was reliably characterized by a number of prosodic cues, although one acoustic feature appeared particularly robust in sarcastic utterances: overall reductions in mean F0 relative to all other target attitudes. Sarcasm was also reliably distinguished from sincerity by overall reductions in HNR and in F0 standard deviation. In certain linguistic contexts, sarcasm could be differentiated from sincerity and humour through changes in resonance and reductions in both speech rate and F0 range. Results also suggested a role of language used by speakers in conveying sarcasm and sincerity. It was concluded that sarcasm in speech can be characterized by a specific pattern of prosodic cues in addition to textual cues, and that these acoustic characteristics can be influenced by language used by the speaker.
    Speech Communication. 01/2008;
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    Henry S. Cheang, Marc D. Pell
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    ABSTRACT: The speech prosody of a group of patients in the early stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) was compared to that of a group of healthy age- and education-matched controls to quantify possible acoustic changes in speech production secondary to PD. Both groups produced standardized speech samples across a number of prosody conditions: phonemic stress, contrastive stress, and emotional prosody. The amplitude, fundamental frequency, and duration of all tokens were measured. PD speakers produced speech that was of lower amplitude than the tokens of healthy speakers in many conditions across all production tasks. Fundamental frequency distinguished the two speaker groups for contrastive stress and emotional prosody production, and duration differentiated the groups for phonemic stress production. It was concluded that motor impairments in PD lead to adverse and varied acoustic changes which affect a number of prosodic contrasts in speech and that these alterations appear to occur in earlier stages of disease progression than is often presumed by many investigators.
    Journal of Neurolinguistics - J NEUROLINGUIST. 01/2007; 20(3):221-241.
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    Henry S Cheang, Marc D Pell
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    ABSTRACT: This research provides further data regarding non-literal language comprehension following right hemisphere damage (RHD). To assess the impact of RHD on the processing of non-literal language, ten participants presenting with RHD and ten matched healthy control participants were administered tasks tapping humour appreciation and pragmatic interpretation of non-literal language. Although the RHD participants exhibited a relatively intact ability to interpret humour from jokes, their use of pragmatic knowledge about interpersonal relationships in discourse was significantly reduced, leading to abnormalities in their understanding of communicative intentions (CI). Results imply that explicitly detailing CI in discourse facilitates RHD participants' comprehension of non-literal language.
    Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 09/2006; 20(6):447-62. · 0.78 Impact Factor
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    Marc D Pell, Henry S Cheang, Carol L Leonard
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    ABSTRACT: An expressive disturbance of speech prosody has long been associated with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD), but little is known about the impact of dysprosody on vocal-prosodic communication from the perspective of listeners. Recordings of healthy adults (n=12) and adults with mild to moderate PD (n=21) were elicited in four speech contexts in which prosody serves a primary function in linguistic or emotive communication (phonemic stress, contrastive stress, sentence mode, and emotional prosody). Twenty independent listeners naive to the disease status of individual speakers then judged the intended meanings conveyed by prosody for tokens recorded in each condition. Findings indicated that PD speakers were less successful at communicating stress distinctions, especially words produced with contrastive stress, which were identifiable to listeners. Listeners were also significantly less able to detect intended emotional qualities of Parkinsonian speech, especially for anger and disgust. Emotional expressions that were correctly recognized by listeners were consistently rated as less intense for the PD group. Utterances produced by PD speakers were frequently characterized as sounding sad or devoid of emotion entirely (neutral). Results argue that motor limitations on the vocal apparatus in PD produce serious and early negative repercussions on communication through prosody, which diminish the social-linguistic competence of Parkinsonian adults as judged by listeners.
    Brain and Language 06/2006; 97(2):123-34. · 3.39 Impact Factor
  • Henry S. Cheang, Marc D. Pell
    Brain and Language - BRAIN LANG. 01/2004; 91(1):21-22.
  • Henry S. Cheang, Marc D. Pell
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    ABSTRACT: Reduced speech intelligibility has been observed clinically among patients with Parkinson's disease (PD); one possible contributor to these problems is that motor limitations in PD reduce the ability to mark linguistic contrasts in speech using prosodic cues. This study compared acoustic aspects of the production of contrastive stress (CS) in sentences that were elicited from ten subjects with PD and ten matched control subjects without neurological impairment. Subjects responded to questions that biased them to put emphasis on the first, middle, or last word of target utterances. The mean vowel duration and mean fundamental frequency (F0) of each keyword were then measured, normalized, and analyzed for possible differences in the acoustic cues provided by each group to signal emphatic stress. Both groups demonstrated systematic differences in vowel lengthening between emphasized and unemphasized words across word positions; however, controls were more reliable than PD subjects at modulating the F0 of emphasized words to signal its location in the utterance. Group differences in the F0 measures suggest one possible source of the impoverished intelligibility of Parkinsonian speech and will be investigated in a subsequent study that looks at the direct impact of these changes on emphasis perception by listeners. [Work supported by CIHR.]
    The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 01/2001; 115:2424-2424. · 1.65 Impact Factor