Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: II. Syllable rhythm

Kim, J., Davis, C., & Cutler, A. (2008). Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: II. Syllable rhythm. Language and Speech, 51(4), 343-359. doi:10.1177/0023830908099069.
To segment continuous speech into its component words, listeners make use of language rhythm; because rhythm differs across languages, so do the segmentation procedures which listeners use. For each of stress-, syllable-and mora-based rhythmic structure, perceptual experiments have led to the discovery of corresponding segmentation procedures. In the case of mora-based rhythm, similar segmentation has been demonstrated in the otherwise unrelated languages Japanese and Telugu; segmentation based on syllable rhythm, however, has been previously demonstrated only for European languages from the Romance family. We here report two target detection experiments in which Korean listeners, presented with speech in Korean and in French, displayed patterns of segmentation like those previously observed in analogous experiments with French listeners. The Korean listeners' accuracy in detecting word-initial target fragments in either language was significantly higher when the fragments corresponded exactly to a syllable in the input than when the fragments were smaller or larger than a syllable. We conclude that Korean and French listeners can call on similar procedures for segmenting speech, and we further propose that perceptual tests of speech segmentation provide a valuable accompaniment to acoustic analyses for establishing languages' rhythmic class membership.
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