Syllables, segments and how to measure speech tempo: Evidence from listening experiments




This research explored how listeners estimate speech tempo. While there is great
scientific interest in tempo, in psycho- and neurolinguistics as well as the speech
sciences, there is no agreed method for measuring it. Researchers may count the
number of syllables per time unit, or the number of sounds. They may count
'intended' sound units, or produced ones only. These measures can produce
different results: utterances with matching syllable numbers often differ in numbers
of sounds, and in normal speech, many words are produced with sounds left out,
so the number of observed sounds is below the 'intended' number. An important
question is which of these methods produces the most realistic tempo figures --
the figures that best match real listeners' impressions of speech tempo.
Surprisingly, little experimental work has been done to address this question: the
answer would clearly be useful methodologically, and significantly improve our
understanding of how speech is perceived. This research began to address the
question through a series of carefully controlled listening experiments.

Publications and outputs

Plug L, Smith R. 2018. Segments, syllables and speech tempo perception. Speech Prosody 2018 Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018 , pp. 279-283   

Plug L, Smith R. 2017. Phonological complexity, segment rate and speech tempo perception. Interspeech 2017 Proceedings of Interspeech 2017 International Speech Communication Association (ISCA), pp. 1403-1406