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Author(s): Jair de Almeida Silva | Alexsandro Rodrigues Meireles

Journal: Journal of Speech Sciences
ISSN 2236-9740

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 3;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: speech rhythm variation | speech rate | sociophonetics | stress group

Meireles and Barbosa have presented studies that show the influence of speech rate on rhythmic restructurings of speech (see Barbosa (1994) for data in French, and Barbosa (2007), Meireles (2009) for data in Brazilian Portuguese). Rhythmic restructuring is defined here as the reorganization of stress groups (henceforth SG) as speech rate increases. The influence of the speech rate on the rhythmic reorganizations of speech can be explained by the Dynamical Speech Rhythm model (Barbosa, 2007; Barbosa, 2006) (henceforth DSR). In this model, speech rhythm is considered to be a “consequence of the variation of perceived duration along the entire utterance” (Barbosa, 2007). Intrinsic segmental duration is normalized through the use of abstract vowel-to-vowel (henceforth VV) duration (see (Barbosa, 2007; Meireles, 2009)). Entrained, abstract VV duration is used as the control parameter to generate prosodic variation. The maxima of VV duration delimitate produced SGs as rhythmic units in Brazilian Portuguese. Using the DSR model as a theoretical framework, Meireles and Barbosa have run acoustic and articulatory experiments that show the influence of speech rate on speech rhythm (see (Meireles, 2009) for a more detailed explanation): (i) Meireles and Barbosa (2008) and Meireles (2009) investigated how speech rate acts to articulatorily reorganize lexical stresses in Brazilian Portuguese; (ii) Meireles and Barbosa (2008) and Meireles (2009) ran acoustic and articulatory (EMMA) experiments, so as to study speech rhythm reorganizations due to speech rate increase in Brazilian Portuguese. This paper follows the line of reasoning used in previous research carried out by both Barbosa and Meireles. Nevertheless, it sheds new light on the phenomenon of rhythmic restructuring since it correlates phonetic variables (mean and standard deviation of VV and SG durations) with social variables (gender and age). Main results have shown that social variables variation can contribute to the reorganization of speech rhythm and modify some phonetic parameters in the following way: a) the standard deviation of vowel-to-vowel (VV) duration and stress group duration is smaller for the male gender and advanced age group; b) stress group duration tends to be vary less according to male gender and the advanced age (rhythmic restructurings make VV units smaller, but with a greater number of VV units per stress group, which results in a statistically constant stress group duration for these variables); c) the number of VV units per stress group proportionally increases from the young age group to the advanced age group due to rhythmic restructurings; and d) the male gender and the advanced age group emphasize even more strongly the mixed character of Brazilian Portuguese rhythm, i.e., the tendency to mix syllable-timed with stress-timed rhythm.
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