Test of Prosody via Syllable Emphasis (“TOPsy”): Psychometric Validation of a Brief Scalable Test of Lexical Stress Perception Journal Article uri icon



  • Prosody perception is fundamental to spoken language communication as it supports comprehension, pragmatics, morphosyntactic parsing of speech streams, and phonological awareness. A particular aspect of prosody: perceptual sensitivity to speech rhythm patterns in words (i.e., lexical stress sensitivity), is also a robust predictor of reading skills, though it has received much less attention than phonological awareness in the literature. Given the importance of prosody and reading in educational outcomes, reliable and valid tools are needed to conduct large-scale health and genetic investigations of individual differences in prosody, as groundwork for investigating the biological underpinnings of the relationship between prosody and reading. Motivated by this need, we present the Test of Prosody via Syllable Emphasis (“TOPsy”) and highlight its merits as a phenotyping tool to measure lexical stress sensitivity in as little as 10 min, in scalable internet-based cohorts. In this 28-item speech rhythm perception test [modeled after the stress identification test from Wade-Woolley (2016)], participants listen to multi-syllabic spoken words and are asked to identify lexical stress patterns. Psychometric analyses in a large internet-based sample shows excellent reliability, and predictive validity for self-reported difficulties with speech-language, reading, and musical beat synchronization. Further, items loaded onto two distinct factors corresponding to initially stressed vs. non-initially stressed words. These results are consistent with previous reports that speech rhythm perception abilities correlate with musical rhythm sensitivity and speech-language/reading skills, and are implicated in reading disorders (e.g., dyslexia). We conclude that TOPsy can serve as a useful tool for studying prosodic perception at large scales in a variety of different settings, and importantly can act as a validated brief phenotype for future investigations of the genetic architecture of prosodic perception, and its relationship to educational outcomes.

publication date

  • February 9, 2022

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • April 13, 2023 8:32 AM

Full Author List

  • Nayak S; Gustavson DE; Wang Y; Below JE; Gordon RL; Magne CL

author count

  • 6

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1662-453X

Additional Document Info


  • 16