Speech Rhythm in Spontaneous and Controlled L2 Speaking Modes: Exploring Differences and Distance Measures





speech rhythm, rhythm metrics, English, Spanish, Catalan, Mahalanobis distances


Studies of speech rhythm have often used read speech rather than spontaneous speech in their comparisons. However, read speech has been shown to be perceptually different from spontaneous speech, which may be due to rhythmic differences between the two modes. To examine this, the effect of speaking mode (spontaneous or controlled) was assessed in a group of 82 Spanish-Catalan learners of English relative to a control group of 8 native English speakers. Results found strong rhythmic differences between the two modes, but minimal differences between the learners and native speakers. Additionally, Mahalanobis distance analyses revealed that non-native speakers differed significantly more from the native control group in the spontaneous condition than the controlled condition.


Algethami, Ghazi and Sam Hellmuth. 2023. Methods for investigation of L2 speech rhythm: Insights from the production of English speech rhythm by L2 Arabic learners. Second Language Research, 0(ahead of print), 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/02676583231152638
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/02676583231152638

Amengual, Mark. 2016. Cross-linguistic influence in the bilingual mental lexicon: Evidence of cognate effects in the phonetic production and processing of a vowel contrast. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(617), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00617
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00617

Amengual, Mark, & Pilar Chamorro. 2016. The effects of language dominance in the perception and production of the Galician mid vowel contrasts. Phonetica, 72(4), 207-236. https://doi.org/10.1159/000439406
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1159/000439406

Arvaniti, Amalia. 2009. Rhythm, Timing and the Timing of Rhythm. Phonetica, 66(1-2), 46–63. https://doi-org.sire.ub.edu/10.1159/000208930
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1159/000208930

Arvaniti, Amalia. 2012. The usefulness of metrics in the quantification of speech rhythm. Journal of Phonetics, 40(3), 351–373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2012.02.003
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2012.02.003

Benjamini, Yoav and Yosef Hochberg. 1995. Controlling the False Discovery Rate: A Practical and Powerful Approach to Multiple Testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B (Methodological), 57(1), 289-300. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2517-6161.1995.tb02031.x
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2517-6161.1995.tb02031.x

Bertinetto, Pier Marco. 1989. Reflections on the dichotomy “stress” vs “syllable timing”. Revue de Phonétique Appliqué, 91-92-93, 99-129.
Google Scholar

Boersma, Paul and David Weenink 2022. Praat: doing phonetics by computer [Computer program]. Version 6.2.07, retrieved 28 January 2022 from http://www.praat.org/
Google Scholar

Bogach, Natalia, Elena Boitsova, Sergey Chernonog, Anton Lamtev, Maria Lesnichaya, Iurii Lezhenin, Andrey Novopashenny et al. 2021. Speech processing for language learning: A practical approach to computer-assisted pronunciation teaching. Electronics (Switzerland), 10(3), 1–22.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10030235

Borràs, Joan. 2022. Voweldist.R [R script]. Retrieved from: https://github.com/ebrenc/rstats/blob/main/voweldist.R
Google Scholar

Brereton, Richard G. 2015. The Mahalanobis distance and its relationship to principal component scores. Journal of Chemometrics, 29(3), 143–145. https://doi.org/10.1002/cem.2692
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/cem.2692

Cantarutti, Marina N. and Beatrice Szczepek-Reed. 2021. Stress and Rhythm. In The Cambridge Handbook of Phonetics, 159–184. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108644198.007
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108644198.007

Dauer, Rebecca M. 1983. Stress-timing and syllable-timing reanalyzed. Journal of Phonetics, 11, 51-62. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0095-4470(19)30776-4
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0095-4470(19)30776-4

Dellwo, Volker. 2006. Rhythm and Speech Rate: A Variation Coefficient for deltaC. In P. Karnowski and I. Szigeti (eds.), Language and Language-Processing. Frankfurt am Main.
Google Scholar

Dellwo, Volker. 2010. Influences of speech rate on the acoustic correlates of speech rhythm: An experimental phonetic study based on acoustic and perceptual evidence. Ph.D. dissertation, Universität Bonn, p1-185.
Google Scholar

Dellwo, Volker, Adrian Leemann, and Marie-José Kolly. 2012. Speaker idiosyncratic features in the speech signal. In Proceedings of interspeech 2012, 1584–1587. Portland, USA. https://doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2012-342
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2012-342

Dellwo, Volker, Adrian Leemann, and Marie-José Kolly. 2015a. The recognition of read and spontaneous speech in local vernacular: The case of Zurich German. Journal of Phonetics, 48, 13–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2014.10.011
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2014.10.011

Dellwo, Volker, Adrian Leemann, and Marie-José Kolly. 2015b. Rhythmic variability between speakers: Articulatory, prosodic, and linguistic factors. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 137(3), 1513–1528. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4906837
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4906837

Flege, James Emil, Ocke-Schwen Bohn, and Sunyoung Jang. 1997. Effects of experience on non-native speakers' production and perception of English vowels. Journal of Phonetics, 25(4), 437-470. https://doi.org/10.1006/jpho.1997.0052.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jpho.1997.0052

Gass, Susan M. and Alison Mackey. 2007. Input, interaction and output: An overview. In K. Bardovi-Harlig & Z. Dornyei (eds.), AILA Review, 3-17. Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/aila.19.03gas
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/aila.19.03gas

Gluhareva, Daria and Pilar Prieto. 2017. Training with rhythmic beat gestures benefits L2 pronunciation in discourse-demanding situations. Language Teaching Research, 21(5), 609-631.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168816651463

Grabe, Esther and Ee Ling Low. 2002. Durational Variability in Speech and the Rhythm Class Hypothesis. Papers in laboratory phonology, 7(1982), 515-546. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197105.2.515
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197105.2.515

Henderson, Alice, Dan Frost, Elina Tergujeff, Alexander Kautszch, Deirdre Murphy, Anastazija Kirkova-Naskova, Ewa Waniek-Klimczak, David Levey, Una Cunningham, and Lesley Curnick. 2012. English pronunciation teaching in Europe survey: Selected results. Research in language, 10(1), 5-27. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10015-011-0047-4
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10015-011-0047-4

Kartushina, Natalia, Alexis Hervais-Adelman, Ulrich Hans Frauenfelder, and Narly Golestani. 2016. Mutual influences between native and non-native vowels in production: Evidence from short-term visual articulatory feedback training. Journal of Phonetics, 57, 21-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2016.05.001
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2016.05.001

Kim, Sul-Ki and Tae-Yeoub Jang. 2009. Rhythmic differences between spontaneous and read speech of English. Phonetics and Speech Sciences, 1(30), 49-55.
Google Scholar

Kohler, Klaus J. 2009. Rhythm in speech and language: A new research paradigm. Phonetica, 66(1–2), 29–45. https://doi.org/10.1159/isbn.978-3-8055-9117-1
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1159/000208929

Lai, Catherine, Evanini, Keelan, & Zechner, Klaus. 2013. Applying Rhythm Metrics to Non-native Spontaneous Speech. In P. Badin, T. Hueber, G. Bailly, D. Demolin, & F. Raby (eds.), Proceedings of the ISCA workshop on speech and language technology in education (SLaTE), 159–163.
Google Scholar

Leemann, Adrian, Marie-José Kolly, and Volker Dellwo. 2014. Speaker-individuality in the time-domain: Implications for forensic voice comparison. Forensic Science International, 238, 59–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.02.019
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.02.019

Lengeris, Angelos. 2016. Comparison of perception-production vowel spaces for speakers of Standard Modern Greek and two regional dialects. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 140(4), EL314-EL319. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4964397
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4964397

Levis, John M. 2018. Intelligibility, Oral Communication, and the Teaching of Pronunciation (first ed.). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108241564
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108241564

Li, Aike and Brechtje Post. 2014. L2 acquisition of prosodic properties of speech rhythm. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 36(2), 223–255. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263113000752
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263113000752

Loukina, Anastassia, Greg Kochanski, Burton Rosner, Elinor Keane, and Chilin Shih. 2011. Rhythm measures and dimensions of durational variation in speech. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 129(5), 3258–3270. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.3559709
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.3559709

Low, Ee‐Ling. 2015. The Rhythmic Patterning of English(es): Implications for Pronunciation Teaching. In M. Reed and J.M. Levis (eds.), The handbook of English pronunciation, 125-138. Wiley Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118346952.ch7
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118346952.ch7

Low, Ee Ling, Esther Grabe, and Francis Nolan. 2000. Quantitative Characterizations of Speech Rhythm: Syllable-Timing in Singapore English. Language and Speech, 43(4), 377–401. https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309000430040301
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309000430040301

Mairano, Paolo. 2007. Rhythm typology: acoustic and perceptive studies. [Doctoral Dissertation. University of Torino]. HAL. https://theses.hal.science/tel-00654261
Google Scholar

Meara, P., & Miralpeix, I. (2016). Tools for researching vocabulary. Bristol, Blue Ridge Summit: Multilingual Matters. https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783096473
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783096473

Melnik-Leroy, Gerda Ana, Rory Turnbull, and Sharon Peperkamp. 2022. On the relationship between perception and production of L2 sounds: Evidence from Anglophones’ processing of the French /u/–/y/ contrast. Second Language Research, 38(3), 581-605. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658320988061
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0267658320988061

Mora, Joan C. 2021. Assessing L2 vowel production gains after high-variability phonetic training: acoustic measurements vs. perceptual judgements. Proc. 3rd International Symposium on Applied Phonetics (ISAPh 2021), 9-18. https://doi.org/10.21437/isaph.2021-2
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.21437/ISAPh.2021-2

Munro, Murray J. and Tracey M. Derwing. 2001. Modeling perceptions of the accentedness and comprehensibility of l2 speech the role of speaking rate. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23(4), 451–468. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263101004016
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263101004016

Nolan, Francis and Eva Liina Asu. 2009. The pairwise variability index and coexisting rhythms in language. Phonetica, 66(1–2), 64–77. https://doi.org/10.1159/000208931
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1159/000208931

Ordin, Mikhail and Leona Polyanskaya. 2014. Development of timing patterns in first and second languages. System, 42, 244-257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2013.12.004
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2013.12.004

Ordin, Mikhail and Leona Polyanskaya. 2015. Acquisition of speech rhythm in a second language by learners with rhythmically different native languages. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 138(2), 533–544. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4923359
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4923359

Pike, K. L. (1945). The Intonation of American English. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Google Scholar

Polyanskaya, Leona and Mikhail Ordin. 2015. Acquisition of speech rhythm in first language. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 138(3), 199-204. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4929616
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4929616

Polyanskaya, Leona and Mikhail Ordin. 2019. The effect of speech rhythm and speaking rate on assessment of pronunciation in a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 40(3), 795–819. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716419000067
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716419000067

Polyanskaya, Leona, Mikhail Ordin, and Maria Grazia Busa. 2017. Relative Salience of Speech Rhythm and Speech Rate on Perceived Foreign Accent in a Second Language. Language and Speech, 60(3), 333–355. https://doi.org/10.1177/0023830916648720
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0023830916648720

Prieto, Pilar, Maria del Mar Vanrell, Lluïsa Astruc, Elinor Payne, and Brechtje Post. 2012. Phonotactic and phrasal properties of speech rhythm. Evidence from Catalan, English, and Spanish. Speech Communication, 54(6), 681–702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2011.12.001
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2011.12.001

Quené, Hugo and L. E. Van Delft. 2010. Non-native durational patterns decrease speech intelligibility. Speech Communication, 52(11–12), 911–918. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2010.03.005
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2010.03.005

Ramus, Franck and Jacques Mehler. 1999. Language identification with suprasegmental cues: A study based on speech resynthesis. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 105(1), 512–521. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.424522
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.424522

Ramus, Franck, Marina Nespor, and Jacques Mehler. 1999. Correlates of linguistic rhythm in the speech signal. Cognition, 75(1), 265–292. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0010-0277(00)00101-3
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00058-X

Riverin-Coutlée, Josiane, Johanna-Pascale Roy, and Michele Gubian. 2022. Using Mahalanobis Distances to Investigate Second Dialect Acquisition: A Study on Quebec French. Language and Speech, 66(2), 291–321 https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309221097978
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309221097978

Roach, Peter. 1982. On the distinction between ‘stress-timed’ and ‘syllable-timed’ languages. In D. Crystal. (ed.), Linguistic Controversies: Essays in Linguistic Theory and Practice, 73-79. London: Edward Arnold.
Google Scholar

Schiel, Florian. 2015. A statistical model for predicting pronunciation. In M. Wolters, J. Livingstone, B. Beattie, R. Smith, Rachel, M. MacMahon, J. Stuart-Smith, & J. Scobbie (eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences 2015, Glasgow, UK (ICPhS 18).
Google Scholar

Ur, Penny. 1981. Discussions that work: Task-centered fluency practice. Cambridge University Press.
Google Scholar

Valls-Ferrer, Margalida. 2011. The development of oral fluency and rhythm during a stay abroad period. [Doctoral dissertation, Universitat Pompeu Fabra].
Google Scholar

Van Maastricht, Lieke, Tim Zee, Emiel Krahmer, and Marc Swerts. 2021. The interplay of prosodic cues in the L2: How intonation, rhythm, and speech rate in speech by Spanish learners of Dutch contribute to L1 Dutch perceptions of accentedness and comprehensibility. Speech Communication, 133, 81–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2020.04.003
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2020.04.003

White, Laurence and Sven L. Mattys. 2007. Calibrating rhythm: First language and second language studies. Journal of Phonetics, 35(4), 501–522. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2007.02.003
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2007.02.003

Wu, Shu-Ling, Yee Pin Tio, and Lourdes Ortega. 2022. Elicited imitation as a measure of L2 proficiency: new insights from a comparison of two L2 English parallel forms. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 44(1), 302–302.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263121000607




How to Cite

Fraser, K., & Mora, J. C. (2023). Speech Rhythm in Spontaneous and Controlled L2 Speaking Modes: Exploring Differences and Distance Measures. Research in Language, 21(4), 397–420. https://doi.org/10.18778/1731-7533.21.4.04




Funding data