Compressibility of Segment Duration in English and Chinese

Chengxia Wang, Jinsong Zhang, Yi Xu


This study is a reexamination of the rhythm class hypothesis through an investigation of isochrony tendency in English, an alleged stress-timed language, and Chinese, an alleged syllable-timed language. We compared the relationship between segment and syllable duration in a corpus from each language. The results show that the correlation of segment and syllable duration is close to 1 in English but much weaker in Chinese. This indicates that English segments are not compressible for the sake of equal syllable duration, while Chinese does show have a weak tendency toward equal syllable duration. Combining evidence from other studies, we interpret the current finding as an indication that there is no tendency toward isochrony of stress intervals in English. In contrast, there is an isochrony tendency at both the syllable level and phrase level in Chinese. Compressibility of segments and syllables could therefore be a useful index of cross-linguistic typology of timing and rhythm.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-132

Cite as: Wang, C., Zhang, J., Xu, Y. (2018) Compressibility of Segment Duration in English and Chinese. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 651-655, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-132.


@inproceedings{Wang2018,
  author={Chengxia Wang and Jinsong Zhang and Yi Xu},
  title={Compressibility of Segment Duration in English and Chinese},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={651--655},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-132},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-132}
}