Linguistics Colloquium: Doron Modan
Title: Isochrony (timing theory) revisited
Abstract: Durations of speech components like phonemes, syllables and feet are governed by multiple factors, such as the identity of the neighboring phonemes, location of the phoneme inside the syllable, location of the syllable inside the foot, number of syllables in the foot, and so on. These factors act on the duration in a way which shows regularity. But on top of these and other factors, there exists a cohesive element, which is rhythm in speech. At least that is what was stipulated in 1945 by K. Pike, and even before him, by eminent figures such as Daniel Jones and Trubeztskoy. Isochrony means similarity of durations of neighboring speech segments. According to Jones (1918), "There is a strong tendency in connected speech to make stressed syllables follow each other as nearly as possible at equal distances".
Many studies have tried to prove, again and again, the existence of Isochrony, looking either for equality of syllabic durations ('syllable timing') or for equality of feet durations ('foot timing'). Still, empirical studies, made possible with the advent of the voice spectrograph, never succeeded in proving the existence of Isochrony.
Based on statistical analysis of my Hebrew speech data, I will show that there is a clear evidence for regularity in speech durations ("durational rules"). However, we will see that Isochrony is not only non-existent, but that it is even a priori impossible, at least in Hebrew. On the other hand, we will use the data to suggest why speakers and listeners tend to perceive neighboring speech segments as having equal durations.
Place: Building 507 room 106
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