A Speech Rhythm Comparison of English Speakers from Hawai‘i and California

Aljader, Lana Lobato
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There has been a long tradition, since at least 1945, of research into the rhythm of speech. Considered a universal feature of language, speech rhythm is often broken down into two main categories, stress-timed and syllable-timed. Languages are assumed to fit into, or fall along a continuum between, these two categories. This study compares the recorded speech of two politicians speaking Californian English, a so-called stress-timed language, and two politicians speaking Hawai‘i English, which has yet to be categorized. Influencing languages, regional dialect, and social impacts are discussed. The software DARLA and the program Praat were used to assist in the manual insertion of vowel boundaries. To compare the ratio of differences in duration between successive vowels for each speaker the normalized Pairwise Variability Indices (nPVI) was calculated. The hypothesis that Hawai‘i English is more syllable-timed than other American varieties, as has been impressionistically observed in the literature, was not supported. Limitations of the traditional conception of rhythm and of the current study, as well as the need for further work, are discussed.
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