Rhythmic variability between speakers: articulatory, prosodic, and linguistic factors

J Acoust Soc Am. 2015 Mar;137(3):1513-28. doi: 10.1121/1.4906837.


Between-speaker variability of acoustically measurable speech rhythm [%V, ΔV(ln), ΔC(ln), and Δpeak(ln)] was investigated when within-speaker variability of (a) articulation rate and (b) linguistic structural characteristics was introduced. To study (a), 12 speakers of Standard German read seven lexically identical sentences under five different intended tempo conditions (very slow, slow, normal, fast, very fast). To study (b), 16 speakers of Zurich Swiss German produced 16 spontaneous utterances each (256 in total) for which transcripts were made and then read by all speakers (4096 sentences; 16 speaker × 256 sentences). Between-speaker variability was tested using analysis of variance with repeated measures on within-speaker factors. Results revealed strong and consistent between-speaker variability while within-speaker variability as a function of articulation rate and linguistic characteristics was typically not significant. It was concluded that between-speaker variability of acoustically measurable speech rhythm is strong and robust against various sources of within-speaker variability. Idiosyncratic articulatory movements were found to be the most plausible factor explaining between-speaker differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Periodicity*
  • Phonetics*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Time Factors
  • Voice Quality*
  • Young Adult