Phonetic Exercises

Phonetic Exercises - Languages in Danger

Author: Maciej Karpiński
Breaking the speed (speech?) limits...

Investigating speech rate in an Iwaidjan recording

Download and watch the video signal from:

You will hear a woman using a language of Iwaidjan family spoken in Australia. Can you judge whether she speaks slow or fast? What is the basis of your judgement? If you were asked to measure speech tempo, what method would you use?

If you can extract audio from this video file, load it into Praat or WaveSurfer. Play the sound. Note that some stretches of speech sound exceptionally “fast”. You can also find recordings of fast speakers from YouTube (try a search like “fast speech” or “fast speakers”), or other sources, e.g. ask record some of your friends known as fast speakers.

Can you count the syllables and calculate how many of them, on average, are produced per second?

[Please refer to the transcript which is also available in the page in order to verify your calculations. In Praat or WaveSurfer, you can easily measure durations of sound events or gaps between them. Just mark the interval with the mouse and read the value that will occur above the marked interval (in Praat).]

Record two or three regular utterances in your native language and calculate speech rate in syllables per second. Is it substantially different from that achieved by the Iwaidja speaker? Can you achieve such a high rate in your language?

[Speech rate calculated in syllables per second is, obviously, a very idiosyncratic, speaker-dependent value. This particular speaker of Iwaidjan sounds very fast but what do actual measurements say? What are the results for the fastest speakers you found on YouTube or among your friends?]

How is it possible to achieve such a high speech rate? Is there anything peculiar about the quality of speech sounds in the “fast” sections? Try to mimic them. Try to produce a sentence in your native language at a comparable speed.

[Many consonants of Iwaidjan are liquids. They do not involve full closure of the vocal tract nor plosions – the air is blocked partially by the tongue. Intuitively, they may require less articulatory effort and can be produced faster than those involving full closures. They also rely mainly on the movement of the tongue which can be extremely fast.]

More exercises

Find other exercises and information on Iwaidjan languages on the Interactive Map