Duration and speed of speech events: A selection of methods

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The study of speech timing, i.e. the duration and speed or tempo of speech events, has increased in importance over the past twenty years, in particular in connection with increased demands for accuracy, intelligibility and naturalness in speech technology, with applications in language teaching and testing, and with the study of speech timing patterns in language typology. H owever, the methods used in such studies are very diverse, and so far there is no accessible overview of these methods. Since the field is too broad for us to provide an exhaustive account, we have made two choices: first, to provide a framework of paradigmatic (classificatory), syntagmatic (compositional) and functional (discourse-oriented) dimensions for duration analysis; and second, to provide worked examples of a selection of methods associated primarily with these three dimensions. Some of the methods which are covered are established state-of-the-art approaches (e.g. the paradigmatic Classification and Regression Trees, CART , analysis), others are discussed in a critical light (e.g. so-called ‘rhythm metrics’). A set of syntagmatic approaches applies to the tokenisation and tree parsing of duration hierarchies, based on speech annotations, and a functional approach describes duration distributions with sociolinguistic variables. Several of the methods are supported by a new web-based software tool for analysing annotated speech data, the Time Group Analyser.

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