Issues in the Acoustic Measurement of Rhythm

  • David Deterding
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 15)


This paper focuses on the acoustic measurement of rhythm, using a modified version of the Pairwise Variability Index (PVI) developed by Ling, Grabe and Nolan (J Phonetics 29:217–230, 2000). It considers issues that arise when the PVI is used and how they can be dealt with, and it discusses the effectiveness of the PVI in contrasting the rhythm of 2 varieties of English by comparing recordings of the Wolf passage by 20 Bruneians with similar recordings of British speakers. Finally, there is a discussion of the status of rhythm in the teaching of English, specifically whether it is appropriate for teachers to promote stress-based rhythm in the speech of their students.


Acoustic Measurement Content Word Function Word Short Vowel Consonant Cluster 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Abercrombie, David. 1967. Elements of general phonetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barry, William J., and Michela Russo. 2003. Measuring rhythm. Is it separable from speech rate? In Proceedings of the IP2003 Prosodic Interfaces Conference, ed. Amina Mettouchi and Gaëlle Ferré, 15–20, Nantes, 27–29 Mar 2003.Google Scholar
  3. Benton, Matthew, Liz Dockendorf, Wenhua Jin, Yang Liu, and Jerold A. Edmondson. 2007. The continuum of speech rhythm: Computational testing of speech rhythm of large corpora from natural Chinese and English Speech. In Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 1269–1272, Saarbrücken, 6–10 Aug 2007.Google Scholar
  4. Boersma, Paul, and David Weenink. 2010. Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. Accessed 19 Sept 2010.
  5. Bond, Z.S., Dace Markus, and Verna Stockmal. 2003. Prosodic and rhythmic patterns produced by native and non-native speakers of a quantity-sensitive language. In Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, ed. M.J. Solé, D. Recasens and J. Romero, 526–530, Barcelona, 3–9 Aug 2003.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, Adam. 1988. The staccato effect in the pronunciation of English in Malaysia and Singapore. In New Englishes: The case of Singapore, ed. Joseph Foley, 115–128. Singapore: Singapore University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Celce-Murcia, Marianne, Donna M. Brinton, and Janet M. Goodwin. 1996. Teaching pronunciation: A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cruttenden, Alan. 2008. Gimson’s pronunciation of English, 7th ed. London: Hodder Education.Google Scholar
  9. Crystal, David. 1995. Documenting rhythmical change. In Studies in general and English phonetics: Essays in honour of Professor J. D. O’Connor, ed. Jack Windsor Lewis, 174–179. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Crystal, David. 2003. English as a global language, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cummins, Fred, and Robert Port. 1998. Rhythmic constraints on stress timing in English. Journal of Phonetics 26: 145–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dankovičová, Jana, and Volker Dellwo. 2007. Czech speech rhythm and the rhythm class hypothesis. In Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 1241–1244, Saarbrücken, 6–10 Aug 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Deterding, David. 2001. The measurement of rhythm: A comparison of Singapore and British English. Journal of Phonetics 29: 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deterding, David. 2006. The North Wind versus a Wolf: Short texts for the description and measurement of English pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36: 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Field, John. 2008. Bricks or mortar: Which parts of the input does a second language listener rely on? TESOL Quarterly 42: 411–432.Google Scholar
  16. Grabe, Esther, and Low Ee Ling. 2002. Durational variability in speech and the rhythm class hypothesis. In Laboratory phonology 7, ed. Carlos Gussenhoven and Natasha Warner, 515–546. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoequist, Charley E. 1983. The perceptual center and rhythm categories. Language and Speech 26: 367–376.Google Scholar
  18. Hogg, Richard, and C.B. McCully. 1987. Metrical phonology: A coursebook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. IPA. 1999. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Jenkins, Jennifer. 2007. English as a lingua franca: Attitude and identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jones, Gary M. 2007. 20 years of bilingual education: Then and now. In English in Southeast Asia: Varieties, literacies and literatures, ed. David Prescott, 246–258. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  22. Kachru, Braj B. 1985. Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures, ed. Randolph Quirk and Henry G. Widdowson, 11–30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kachru, Braj B. 2006. Asian Englishes: Beyond the canon. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Low Ee Ling. 2000. Is lexical stress placement different in Singapore English and British English? In The English language in Singapore: Research on pronunciation, ed. Adam Brown, David Deterding, and Low Ee Ling, 22–34. Singapore: Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics.Google Scholar
  25. Low Ee Ling. 2006. A review of recent research on speech rhythm: Some insights for language acquisition, language disorders and language teaching. In Spoken English, TESOL, and applied linguistics: Challenges for theory and practice, ed. Rebecca Hughes, 99–125. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Low Ee Ling, Esther Grabe, and Francis Nolan. 2000. Quantitative characterizations of speech rhythm: Syllable-timing in Singapore English. Journal of Phonetics 29: 217–230.Google Scholar
  27. Lleó, Conxita, Martin Rakow, and Margaret Kehoe. 2007. Acquiring rhythmically different languages in a bilingual context. In Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 1545–1548, Saarbrücken, 6–10 Aug 2007.Google Scholar
  28. Miller, M. 1984. On the perception of rhythm. Journal of Phonetics 12: 75–83.Google Scholar
  29. Nolan, Francis, and Eva Liina Asu. 2009. The pairwise variability index and coexisting rhythms in language. Phonetica 66: 64–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ong, Po Keng Fiona, David Deterding, and Low Ee Ling. 2005. Rhythm in Singapore English: A comparison of indexes. In English in Singapore: Phonetic research on a corpus, ed. David Deterding, Adam Brown, and Low Ee Ling, 74–85. Singapore: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  31. Pennycook, Alistair. 2007. Global Englishes and transcultural flows. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Ramus, Franck, Marina Nespor, and Jacques Mehler. 1999. Correlates of linguistic rhythm in the speech signal. Cognition 73(3): 265–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Roach, Peter. 1982. On the distinction between ‘stress-timed’ and ‘syllable-timed’ languages. In Linguistic controversies, ed. David Crystal, 73–79. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  34. Roach, Peter. 2009. English phonetics and phonology: A practical course, 4th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Salbrina, Sharbawi, and David Deterding. 2010. Rhoticity in Brunei English. English World-Wide 31(2): 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shockey, Linda. 2003. Sound patterns of spoken English. Malden: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tan, Kah Keong. 2005. Vocalisation of /l/ in Singapore English. In English in Singapore: Phonetic research based on a corpus, ed. David Deterding, Adam Brown, and Low Ee Ling, 43–53. Singapore: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  39. Teschner, Richard V., and M.Stanley Whitley. 2004. Pronouncing English: A stress-based approach with CD-ROM. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wells, J.C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Zuraidah, Mohd Don, Gerry Knowles, and Janet Yong. 2008. How words can be misleading: A study of syllable timing and “stress” in Malay. The Linguistics Journal 3(2). Accessed 16 Sept 2010.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Brunei DarussalamBandar Seri BegawanBrunei Darussalam

Personalised recommendations