Speech rhythm in Ghanaian languages: The cases of Akan, Ewe and Ghanaian English

Natalie Boll-Avetisyan, Paul Okyere Omane, Frank Kügler


Speech rhythm is language-specific, and provides important cues to language acquisition and processing. Rhythm studies have mainly focused on European languages. The present paper addresses the question of how West-African languages fit into rhythm typology, and whether language contact in multilingual societies impacts their rhythms [1]-[3]. We selected three languages shared by many speakers in Ghana, a West-African multilingual society: We recorded speakers of Akan, Ewe and Ghanaian English (GE), and a control speaker of American English (AE). For the rhythmic analysis, speech was segmented in vocalic and consonantal intervals, and the variability in the duration of these intervals was scored. Following [4]’s measures, vocalic information suggests that rhythm is mora-timed in Akan and Ewe, and syllable-timed in GE, unlike stress-timed AE. However, consonantal information suggests a stress-timed rhythm of all four languages. When controlling vocalic information for speech rate [5], Akan, Ewe and GE resemble syllable-timed languages. In sum, Akan and Ewe do not straightforwardly cluster with any of the traditional rhythm classes. Moreover, GE is rhythmically distinct from AE, probably because of transfer effects from Kwa languages. The results highlight the importance of studying understudied languages and linguistic cultures for our understanding of rhythm typology.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-120

Cite as: Boll-Avetisyan, N., Omane, P.O., Kügler, F. (2020) Speech rhythm in Ghanaian languages: The cases of Akan, Ewe and Ghanaian English. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 586-590, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-120.


@inproceedings{Boll-Avetisyan2020,
  author={Natalie Boll-Avetisyan and Paul Okyere Omane and Frank Kügler},
  title={{Speech rhythm in Ghanaian languages: The cases of Akan, Ewe and Ghanaian English}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={586--590},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-120},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-120}
}