The Role of Suprasegmental Cues for the Discrimination of Languages and Dialects: A Comparative Study (Natural and Inverted Speech)

By Imen Ben Abda.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Languages have been classified by linguists according to
their rhythmic categories. Stress-timed languages are
exemplified by English and Arabic, Syllable-timed languages
by French and Mora-timed languages by Japanese. Recent work
in this field has shown that listeners may use cues other
than segmental ones to differentiate between languages or
dialects belonging to the same rhythm class (Ghazali et al.,
2002; Hamdi et al., 2005). This draws attention to the
possibility of different sub-categories within the broad
rhythmic classes and suggests that languages and dialects,
traditionally described as syllable-timed or stress-timed,
may be categorized in some other different rhythmic classes.
This paper is an attempt to test these hypotheses and these
widely differing findings about rhythm typologies. The
results of the present study showed that languages and
dialects may well be classified into rhythmic classes, but
at the same time, listeners used supra-segmental cues,
mainly rhythm, to differentiate between languages and
dialects belonging to the same rhythm class, which implies
that there may well be subcategories of broad rhythmic
classes. Listeners classified Lebanese Arabic and Welsh
English more in the “weakly stress-timed,” “weakly
syllable-timed” and “syllable-timed” columns, they were
distributed over different rhythm categories other than the
purely stress-timed class and perceived as having different
rhythmic structures from the other dialects.

Keywords: Speech Rhythm Perception, Suprasegmentals, Dialects, Languages, Natural Speech, Spectral Inversion

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.295-308. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 989.283KB).

Imen Ben Abda

Assistant Lecturer, Higher Institute of Languages, ISLT (Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis), Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia

I am a PhD student. I am conducting PhD research in the field of phonetics, mainly speech rhythm perception in different languages and dialects. I have been working on this subject for several years. I have been teaching phonetics for several years at ISLT. I am highly interested in this field of research.

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