The world's first audio collection of examples of stammered speech has been set-up by scientists funded by the Wellcome Trust, the UK's biggest biomedical research charity.
A stammer is a speech disorder involving hesitations and involuntary repetitions of certain sounds.
The library consists of almost 150 recordings made over a 10-year period and will be freely available on the internet. It is hoped it will help research into stammering, which affects around 3 000 000 people in the UK at some time in their lives.
Professor Peter Howell and Dr Stephen Davis, both from University College London, have been supervising the project. Professor Howell said:
"This database and the findings it will bring will offer new hope to people who stammer. Research using these data should place us, better than ever before, in a position to offer accurate and personal advice to help people control their stammers."
Professor Howell decided to create the database after being struck by the lack of access to data on stammering which created a fragmented approach to research.
"Researchers who want to investigate stammered speech really have a daunting task. They have to build expertise, get the right equipment and develop an administrative structure to locate patients as well as obtaining ethical permission. Then comes the actual research."
"Once our database is available it will provide terrific encouragement for those thinking of studying in this important area."
Now researchers will be able to scrutinise examples from children aged from 6 years to adults covering different backgrounds and ethnic groups. The database will enable scientists to identify traits of stammered speech, which will indicate how long the problem might persist and the most effective ways of controlling it.
Stammered speech affects approximately 5 per cent of the population at some time in their lives often beginning between the ages of three and five.
In the UK there are over 100 000 children aged between five and sixteen who stammer, although 80% of these will recover to normal fluency during school years.
Professor Howell and Dr Davis now hope to be able to extend this project to other sources of data about stammering and to continue investigations into the origins of the disorder and its relation to fluent speech.
The audio repository can be found online at: http://speech1.psychol.ucl.ac.uk/index.htm