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Quantifying Macro-rhythm in English and Spanish: A Comparison of Tonal Rhythm Strength


This thesis quantified macro-rhythm in English and Spanish in two speech styles. Macro-rhythm is defined as phrase-medial tonal rhythm (Jun 2014), and its strength is determined by the number of f0 alternations between peaks and valleys within a phrase, the uniformity of the rise-fall shape, and the regularity of L/H intervals. The degree of strength can be predicted based on the number of phrase-level tones in a language’s tonal inventory, the most common type of phrase-medial tone, and the frequency of f0 rise per Prosodic Word. Based on these criteria, Spanish is predicted to have stronger macro-rhythm than English. Two experiments measured the variability of distance intervals between tonal targets, the variability of the slope shapes, and the number of L/H alternations per Prosodic Word per utterance in read speech (Experiment 1) and newscaster speech (Experiment 2). The results of these measures support the prediction that Spanish has stronger macro-rhythm than English.

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