LINGUIST List 11.2603

Fri Dec 1 2000

Sum: Rhythm In Speech And Music

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Aniruddh Patel, rhythm in speech and music

Message 1: rhythm in speech and music

Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 17:35:10 -0800
From: Aniruddh Patel <>
Subject: rhythm in speech and music

Dear List,

Many thanks to all who replied to my query. The original query and a
compilation of responses appear below.

Ani Patel

I'm looking for articles which examine the imprint of linguistic rhythm
on the instrumental music of a culture.

I am familiar with Brian J. Wenk's 1987 paper, "Just in time: on speech
rhythms in music", Linguistics 25:969-981.

I would be grateful for any suggestions for further papers along these
lines, especially empirical studies.


Lerdahl, Fred and Ray Jackendoff 1983. A generative theory of tonal
MIT Press.

Also, in his dissertation, Mark Liberman addresses the relation of
language rhythm and children's musical chants:

Liberman, Mark 1979. The intonational system of English. Garland.
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 English Speech Rhythm
 Studied in Connection with
 British Traditional Music and Dance
 Fumio Yamamoto
 Department of Foreign Languages
 Himeji Dokkyo University
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Ivan Fonagy and Klara Magdics, Emotional Patterns in Intonation and
Music. In D. Bolinger, ed. Intonation: Selected Readings, Penguin, 1972

Robert A. Hall, Jr., Elgar and the Intonation of British English.
Bolinger 1972 (see above).

My colleague B. Flament has published the following book, which includes
5 studies involving poems put to music by composers such as H. Duparc,
F. Poulenc, and others. These contain analyses based on the comparison
between Oscillomink records of the spoken poems and the musical scores.

Bernard Flament, Po�sie/musique ou des notes sur des po�mes: Cinq
�tudes prosodico-musicales, Universit� de Nantes, 1998.
(this can be ordered directly from B. Flament, IUT de Saint-Nazaire, BP
420, 44606 Saint-Nazaire cedex, France. E-mail:
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Actually, I don't know 
much literature on the subject, but I wanted to make the point that 
any such influences (which exist without any doubt) are almost 
certainly mediated to a large extent by vocal music, especially folk 
songs. So, the question can be addressed by studying (1) how language 
prosody is reflected in song (there is a good deal of literature on 
that topic) and (2) to what extent composers have drawn on folk-song 
material in their compositions (which also has been discussed by 
musicologists in great detail). For example, Bart�k's music surely 
uses Hungarian rhythms because his themes are frequently based on the 
folk songs he collected. There are some composers, most notably 
Jan�cek and Mussorgski, who deliberately tried to incorporate speech 
rhythms into their instrumental music, perhaps without any direct 
mediation of song. Still, even if there is no text, "vocally 
conceived" instrumental music is very much like vocal music. In that 
connection, Mozart and Chopin might be expected to have been more 
influenced by Italian models than by German or French/Polish ones.

Much music is dance-based, taking its inspiration from instrumental 
folk music. Although dance rhythms are specific to certain regions, 
their relationship to language prosody is less clear because dance 
has been separated from song for centuries. I don't know what the 
evidence for a connection might be.

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Aniruddh D. Patel			
The Neurosciences Institute		 
10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive
San Diego, CA 92121

Tel	858-626-2085
Fax	858-626-2099
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