the phonetic nature and types of speech rhythm in different languages.

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the phonetic nature and types of speech rhythm in different languages.



An essential feature of connected speech is that the peaks of prominence - the stressed syllables - are inseparably connected with non-prominent syllables. The latter are attached to the stressed syllables, they never exist by themselves. The simplest example of a close relationship between the stressed and unstressed syllables is a polysyllabic word-utterance which is a phonetic and semantic entity incapable of division, e.g.:

`Excellent. To`morrow. `Certainly.

Thus an utterance is split into groups of syllables unified by a stressed syllable, i.e. stress-groups, each of which is a semantic unit - generally a word, often more than a word.

An important feature of English pronunciation is that the prominent syllables in an utterance occur at approximately equal periods of time. It means more or less equal time for each of the stressed groups:

I'd 'like to 'give you a 'piece of ad`vice.

______ ______ ______ ______

When the number of syllables in adjacent stress-groups is not equal, the speed of utterance will be the highest in the group having the largest number of syllables and, vice versa, the tempo is noticeably slower in a group having fewer syllables. Thus the perceptible isochrony of stress-groups is based on the speakers tending to minimize the differences in thelength of stressed groups in an utterance.

Thus it has been shown that stress in English performs an important function of 'organizing' an utterance, providing the basis for its r h у t h m i с structure which is the realization of rhythm as a prosodic feature of speech.

Rhythm is defined in different languages in largely the same terms. The notion of rhythm implies, first of all, a certain periodicity of phonological events. For an English utterance these events, as has been made clear, are the stressed syllables. Such a periodicity is a peculiarity of English. English speech is therefore often described as more 'rhythmic' than, for example, Russian.

It follows that the units of the rhythmic organization of an utterance are stress-groups, which may be as well called rhythmic groups.

Speech tempo and pausation


The tempo of speech is the rate at which utterances and their smaller units are pronounced. On the acoustic level tempo is generally measured by the number of syllables per second.

Tempo of speech may be determined by different factors. It may vary de­pending on the size of audience, the acoustic qualities of the room, the indi­viduality of the speaker and other extralinguistic factors. But most signifi­cant for the linguistic study is how variations in tempo correlate with changes in meaning.

It is common knowledge that by slowing down the tempo of speech we can make an utterance or part of it more prominent, thus underlining the se­mantic importance of it.

On the contrary, by increasing the speed of utterance we diminish promi­nence and, as a result the actual semantic importance of what we say.

Tempo can also be used to express the speaker's attitude or emotion. For example, fast tempo may express excitement, joy, anger, etc. Slow tempo shows relaxation or calmness, reserved and phlegmatic attitude on the part of the speaker.

Everybody's speech has some norm of tempo, deviations from which affect meaning. Phoneticians generally distinguish normal tempo and two de­partures from the norm: fast and slow.

D.Crystal gives a more detailed classification of variations of tempo. He distinguishes between simple and complex tempo systems. The simple tempo system is manifested both in monosyllables and polysyllabic stretches of utterance. The complex tempo system is realized in polysyllabic stretches.

In monosyllables the speeding up and slowing down of the duration of the syllable is perceived as clipped, drawled and held syllables which are generally used for emphasis. "Clipped syllables are articulated at a more rapid speed than normal, in a very tense way; drawled and held syllables are articulated less rapidly than normal, and very lax".

The distinction between drawled and held syllables is that in the former a sound is lengthened as in [ff ain] and in the latter a sound is articulated with the onset of articulation delayed, so that the auditory impression of length is produced through unexpected silence, for example, in stop consonants

as in "Perfectly" [pp3:fiktli] or "Quite, quite blue" [kkwait].

In polysyllabic stretches of utterance D.Crysta I distinguishes two degrees faster than the norm — allegro, allegrissimo, and two degrees slower than the norm — lento, lentissimo in the complex tempo system there are accelerando — a gradual increase in tempo, and rallentando — a gradual decrease. These cont­rasts of tempo correlate with changes in meaning. They may also serve as a style—forming and style—differentiating device.


The speech continuum is divided into units of different length and hierarchy by means of pauses. It is the main function of a pause to segment connected speech into utterances and intonation groups to delimit one utterance or intonation group from another. Pauses are closely related with tempo: the number and length of pauses affect the general tempo of speech.

Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pauses: silent pauses, pauses of perception and voiced (or filled} pauses.

A silent pause is a stop in the phonation (a stop of the work of the vocal cords, which results in the cessation of sound).

Pauses of perception are not a stop in phonation, as there is no period of silence. The effect of a pause is produced by a sharp change of pitch direction, or by variations in duration, or both.

Pauses of perception are generally marked by a wavy line which is used at the junction of intonation groups.

Voiced pauses have usually the quality of the central vowel [ 3: (Э) ] with or without nasalization [ э (m) ]. They are used to signal hesitation or doubt and are therefore called hesitation pauses.

Silent pauses are subdivided into several types according to their length: short, long and extra—long. The short pause is mainly used to separate two in­tonation groups. The long pause which is approximately twice as long is gene­rally used to delimit two utterances. The extra—long pause is used as a rule to separate two paragraphs. But the main factors that determine the occurrence of the type of pause are the semantic relations between the prosodic units. Short pauses indicate closer relations than long ones.

It should be noted that the duration of pauses is relative, not absolute. It may vary depending on the general tempo of speech.

Pauses are very important constituents of intonation. Besides their segmentative and delimitative functions they also perform a unifying function showing the relations between utterances or intonation groups.

The notion of speech style. Phonetic style-forming means in English.


A number of functional styles: publicistic style, newspaper style, the style of official documents.

The main circumstances of reality that cause phonetic modifications in speech are as follows:

  1. the aim of speech
  2. the extent of spontaneity of speech
  3. the use of a form of speech which may either suggest only listening, or both listening and exchange of remarks
  4. social and psychological factors

These are extra linguistic factors.


Phonetic style is a different ways of pronunciation, caused by extra linguistic factors and characterized by definite features.

The degree of assimilation, reduction and elision may serve to distinguish phonetic styles.

Besides these segmental features, there are prosodic features which enable people to distinguish between different phonetic styles.

Each speaker has a norm of loudness. Each speaker has a norm of speech tempo as well. Pauses also help to distinguish different varieties of speech.

Each style of pronunciation is characterized by a relatively high proportion of definite segmental and prosodic features which are not typical of other styles.

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