Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

A Musical Template for Phrasal Rhythm in Spoken Cantonese

Ivan Chow (1), Steven Brown (2), Matthew Poon (3), Kyle Weishaar (4)

(1) Theoretical and Applied Linguistics Laboratory, the University of Western Ontario, Canada
(2) Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour; (3) School of the Arts; (4) Department of Linguistics and Languages; McMaster University, Canada

Although Cantonese lacks stress at the word level, rhythmic patterns are apparent at the sentence level. In order to develop an understanding of this phenomenon, we took a sentence and manipulated the syllabic content of several of its target words in order to observe the consequences for rhythmic structure. Overall, we found that sentence rhythms conformed to simple musical meters. In addition, we found that syllabic durations could become compressed according to small-integer ratios, such as duplets and triplets. Finally, we observed a tendency for sentences to end on a strong beat, a mechanism that we call the Downbeat Rule.

Index terms: speech, rhythm, Cantonese, duration, music, meter, compression

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Chow, Ivan / Brown, Steven / Poon, Matthew / Weishaar, Kyle (2010): "A musical template for phrasal rhythm in spoken Cantonese", In SP-2010, paper 078.