Rhythm and the word boundary problem: Cross-linguistic studies
Speaker: Dr Laurence White
The idea that speech is rhythmically organised remains prevalent. In particular, the notion of rhythm class – “stress-timed”, “syllable-timed”, “mora-timed” – continues to be frequently invoked in language typologies, despite the lack of consistent timing in such constituents. I argue that speech is actually characterised by a strong tendency to “anti-rhythm”, exploited in diverse ways cross-linguistically. In a series of artificial language learning experiments, with native speakers of English, Hungarian and Italian, I explore the importance of variation in the timing of vowels and consonants for guiding listeners to the location of word boundaries.
Laurence White is a Lecturer in Psychology at Plymouth University, with a special interest in Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology and Phonetics. His research investigates how we produce and understand spoken language, and how we learn it as babies.