Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Speaking rates
Question: Is it possible to compare the speed at which different languages are
normally spoken? If so, which languages are relatively fast and which
are slow?

Reply: In addition to all the above, 'syllables' do not necessarily do the same amount of semantic work (on average) in different languages. For example, in Chinese (nearly always) each syllable is a morpheme, whereas in English there are many morphemes of more than one syllable. This means that (for this and other reasons) the average number of syllables taken to say the 'same' thing will be higher in English than in Chinese. The way languages organise their grammar affects the number of syllables in a proposition.

In addition, there are large individual differences between speakers of the same language (even of the same dialect).

It has also been suggested that, within the same language, on average, rural speakers speak slower than urban ones. What if one language was used predominantly by rural communities and another by urban ones? Is that to do with the language or to do with the rural/urban divide.

Formal delivery may be slower than informal too. Recitation styles may be exceptionally slow or exceptionally fast.

In other words -- it's an interesting question that raises many methodological questions and is linked to all sorts of cultural stuff.


Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 14-Nov-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Speaking rates    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (12-Nov-2012)
  2. Re: Speaking rates    Susan D Fischer     (13-Nov-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions