Research Seminar

18 Nov 2016

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.

Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

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