LINGUIST List 8.1575

Sun Nov 2 1997

Sum: Diachronic Development of Rhythmic Patterns

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Z. Bond, Diachronic Development of Rhythmic Patterns

Message 1: Diachronic Development of Rhythmic Patterns

Date: Sun, 2 Nov 1997 22:06:53 -0500
From: Z. Bond <>
Subject: Diachronic Development of Rhythmic Patterns

	Last month, I posted a query concerning diachronic development
of rhythmic patterns (syllable vs. stress timing) in languages. I have
received more than 20 kind responses. To all respondents, my
	In this posting, I'll summarize the main themes of the
	Many respondents pointed out that there are dissenting
opinions concerning the stress-timed, syllable-timed dimension or
dichotomy. In general, phonologists tend to accept descriptions of
languages as stress-timed vs. syllable-timed whereas phoneticians
tend to be skeptical about the distinction.
Several respondents indicated that these terms have no clear phonetic
correlates. We could as easily call one set of languages green and the
other purple. It might be premature to examine historical development
until we have a clearer idea about what the dimension or dichotomy
corresponds to.
Robert Port (Indiana) and Alice Faber (Yale) have ongoing research
programs in this area. Bob Port has some recent studies available on
his home page,
A number of respondents cautioned that tone (F0) patterns should not
be overlooked in describing the rhythmic patterns of languages.
Rather than focusing on the timing of syllables, perhaps other
properties are responsible for rhythmic impressions. In particular,
vowel reduction and variation in syllable structures may responsible.
One responded suggested that Brazilian Portuguese may be stress-timed;
if this is so, languages may shift from one rhythmic category to
another relatively rapidly.
The following references were recommended by respondents (often by
more than one):
Abercrombie, D. (1967) Elements of General Phonetics.
Bertinetto, P. M. (1989) Reflections on the dichotomy 'stress-
vs. syllable timing', Revue de Phonetique Appliquee, 91/93 99-130.
Carvalho, J. B. de (1989) Phonological conditions on Portuguese clitic
placement: on syntactic evidence for the stress and rhythmical
patterns. Linguistics 27, 405-436.
Crystal, T. H. & House, A.S. (1990) Articulation rate and the duration
of syllables and stress groups in connected speech, JASA 88, 101-112.
Cutler, Anne (1996) Prosody and the word boundary problem, in Morgan &
Demuth (eds.) Signal to Syntax.
Dauer, R. M. (1983) Stress timing and syllable timing reanalyzed,
Jl. of Phonetics 11, 51-62.
Donegan, P. & Stampe, D. (1983) Rhythm and the holistic organization
of language structure, Parasession on the interplay of phonology,
morphology and syntax, Chicago Linguistic Society.
Dufter, A. (1995) Ansaetze zu einer rhythmologishen
Sprachtypologie. Available from
coli/procs/dufler.html. Includes an extensive bibliography.
Faber, D. (1986) Teaching the rhythms of English: A new theoretical
base, IRAL 4, 183-198.
Lehiste, I. (1977) Isochrony reconsidered, Jl. of Phonetics 5,
Nakatani, L. H. & OConnor, K. D. (1981) Prosodic aspects of American
English speech rhythm, Phonetica 38, 84-106.
Nooteboom, S (1997) Prosody. In Handbook of Phonetic Sciences,
Hardcastle & Laver, eds.
Pike, K. The Intonation of American English, 1945.
Port, R. F., Dalby, J. & ODell, M. (1987) Evidence for mora timing in
Japanese, JASA 81, 1574-1585.
Trammell, R. L. (1993) English ambi-syllabic consonants and
half-closed syllables in language teaching, Language Learning 43,
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