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J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Mar;127(3):1559-69. doi: 10.1121/1.3293004.

How stable are acoustic metrics of contrastive speech rhythm?

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU, United Kingdom.


Acoustic metrics of contrastive speech rhythm, based on vocalic and intervocalic interval durations, are intended to capture stable typological differences between languages. They should consequently be robust to variation between speakers, sentence materials, and measurers. This paper assesses the impact of these sources of variation on the metrics %V (proportion of utterance comprised of vocalic intervals), VarcoV (rate-normalized standard deviation of vocalic interval duration), and nPVI-V (a measure of the durational variability between successive pairs of vocalic intervals). Five measurers analyzed the same corpus of speech: five sentences read by six speakers of Standard Southern British English. Differences between sentences were responsible for the greatest variation in rhythm scores. Inter-speaker differences were also a source of significant variability. However, there was relatively little variation due to segmentation differences between measurers following an agreed protocol. An automated phone alignment process was also used: Rhythm scores thus derived showed good agreement with the human measurers. A number of recommendations for researchers wishing to exploit contrastive rhythm metrics are offered in conclusion.

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