Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: I. Mora Rhythm

Murty, L., Otake, T., & Cutler, A. (2007). Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: I. Mora Rhythm. Language and Speech, 50(1), 77-99. doi:10.1177/00238309070500010401.
Listeners rely on native-language rhythm in segmenting speech; in different languages, stress-, syllable- or mora-based rhythm is exploited. The rhythmic similarity hypothesis holds that where two languages have similar rhythm, listeners of each language should segment their own and the other language similarly. Such similarity in listening was previously observed only for related languages (English-Dutch; French-Spanish). We now report three experiments in which speakers of Telugu, a Dravidian language unrelated to Japanese but similar to it in crucial aspects of rhythmic structure, heard speech in Japanese and in their own language, and Japanese listeners heard Telugu. For the Telugu listeners, detection of target sequences in Japanese speech was harder when target boundaries mismatched mora boundaries, exactly the pattern that Japanese listeners earlier exhibited with Japanese and other languages. The same results appeared when Japanese listeners heard Telugu speech containing only codas permissible in Japanese. Telugu listeners' results with Telugu speech were mixed, but the overall pattern revealed correspondences between the response patterns of the two listener groups, as predicted by the rhythmic similarity hypothesis. Telugu and Japanese listeners appear to command similar procedures for speech segmentation, further bolstering the proposal that aspects of language phonological structure affect listeners' speech segmentation.
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