Effects of meter and predictability on word durations in The Cat in the Hat

Mara Breen


Decades of research on speech production have demonstrated that virtually every measureable linguistic feature influences word duration in connected speech. Studied features include segmental features like phoneme number, suprasegmental features like syllable number and metrical grid position, lexical features like frequency and predictability, syntactic factors like phrase position, and semantic factors like information structure. In the current study, we investigated interactions of these linguistic features on word duration in a corpus of adult productions of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. This corpus is ideal for such an investigation as it is comprised primarily of high frequency one-syllable words, and features a consistent rhythmic structure, simple sentence structure, and textual cues to information structure (i.e., capitals on focused words). Using mixed-effects linear regression, we predicted the durations of one-syllable words as a function of several factors: 1) number of phonemes; 2) lexical frequency; 3) rhythmic structure; 4) syntactic structure; and 5) information structure. Consistent with prior work, factors that led to longer durations included a) more phonemes, b) lower frequency, c) alignment with a rhythmic prominence, d) alignment with a syntactic boundary, and e) capitalization. However, these factors interacted in interesting ways. For example, rhythmic and syntactic structure interacted additively such that alignment with both a rhythmic prominence and a syntactic boundary led to even longer durations than only one. Moreover, capitalization interacted additively with these effects such that word durations were longer for capitalized words aligned with a rhythmic prominence and a syntactic boundary than non-capitalized words. However, the effects of alignment with a rhythmic prominence and syntactic boundary decreased with number of phonemes, such that durations were longer for 4-phoneme words aligned with a rhythmic prominence and a syntactic boundary than for 6-phoneme words. These results further inform not only our understanding of how linguistic factors interact to influence word duration, but also how speakers signal linguistic information to listeners, particularly children.


Cite as

Breen, M. (2016) Effects of meter and predictability on word durations in The Cat in the Hat. Proc. Speech Prosody 2016, (abstract).

Bibtex
@inproceedings{Breen2016,
author={Mara Breen},
title={Effects of meter and predictability on word durations in The Cat in the Hat},
year=2016,
booktitle={Speech Prosody 2016}
}