Articulation rate across dialect, age, and gender

Lang Var Change. 2009 Jul 1;21(2):233-256. doi: 10.1017/S0954394509990093.


The understanding of sociolinguistic variation is growing rapidly, but basic gaps still remain. Whether some languages or dialects are spoken faster or slower than others constitutes such a gap. Speech tempo is interconnected with social, physical and psychological markings of speech. This study examines regional variation in articulation rate and its manifestations across speaker age, gender and speaking situations (reading vs. free conversation). The results of an experimental investigation show that articulation rate differs significantly between two regional varieties of American English examined here. A group of Northern speakers (from Wisconsin) spoke significantly faster than a group of Southern speakers (from North Carolina). With regard to age and gender, young adults read faster than older adults in both regions; in free speech, only Northern young adults spoke faster than older adults. Effects of gender were smaller and less consistent; men generally spoke slightly faster than women. As the body of work on the sociophonetics of American English continues to grow in scope and depth, we argue that it is important to include fundamental phonetic information as part of our catalog of regional differences and patterns of change in American English.