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J Acoust Soc Am. 2011 May;129(5):3258-70. doi: 10.1121/1.3559709.

Rhythm measures and dimensions of durational variation in speech.

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Oxford University Phonetics Laboratory, OX1 2JF Oxford, United Kingdom.


Patterns of durational variation were examined by applying 15 previously published rhythm measures to a large corpus of speech from five languages. In order to achieve consistent segmentation across all languages, an automatic speech recognition system was developed to divide the waveforms into consonantal and vocalic regions. The resulting duration measurements rest strictly on acoustic criteria. Machine classification showed that rhythm measures could separate languages at rates above chance. Within-language variability in rhythm measures, however, was large and comparable to that between languages. Therefore, different languages could not be identified reliably from single paragraphs. In experiments separating pairs of languages, a rhythm measure that was relatively successful at separating one pair often performed very poorly on another pair: there was no broadly successful rhythm measure. Separation of all five languages at once required a combination of three rhythm measures. Many triplets were about equally effective, but the confusion patterns between languages varied with the choice of rhythm measures.

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