‘Englishness’ of rhythm: comparison of the nPVI values between English songs and their counterparts in Japanese

Noriko Hattori


This study utilizes one of the rhythm metrics, nPVI (normalized Pairwise Variability Index), as a device to detect differences in the arrangements of musical notes, and compares vocalic nPVI values of 10 English songs composed before 1965 with those of their counterparts translated into Japanese. Previous studies assume that musical notes are nearly equal to syllables, since vowels form the core of syllables, and compare vowel-based rhythmic measures of speech to note-based rhythmic measures of music [1]. This paper is based on the following assumptions: (1) mora-timed languages, as represented by Japanese, tend to use notes of equal length, while stress-timed languages, as represented by English, will prefer dotted notes or a combination of notes of large and small values (e.g., 8th and 16th notes) and (2) the sequential order of stressed and unstressed syllables in English lyrics will exert a considerable influence on the output nPVI values of musical notes. My hypothesis is that, since the vocalic nPVI of English speech is larger than that of Japanese speech, if English songs are translated into Japanese, the same relationship will hold, since the arrangement of notes should be kept similar in order to sound like the same tune. The results suggest that the relationship is basically kept in the process of translation.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-16

Cite as: Hattori, N. (2018) ‘Englishness’ of rhythm: comparison of the nPVI values between English songs and their counterparts in Japanese. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 80-84, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-16.


@inproceedings{Hattori2018,
  author={Noriko Hattori},
  title={‘Englishness’ of rhythm: comparison of the nPVI values between English songs and their counterparts in Japanese},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={80--84},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-16},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-16}
}