An analysis of the distribution of syllables in prosodic phrases of stress-timed and syllable-timed languages

Author(s): Jeena J Prakash and Hema A Murthy

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of syllable rhythm in different types of languages, namely syllable-timed and stress-timed. Four Indian languages that are syllable-timed and American English and Scottish English, that are stress-timed are used for the study. This analysis attempts to bring the similarity or differences between the two types of languages in terms of syllable rhythm at the level of prosodic phrases. Two different studies are performed, namely, the number of syllables that make up a prosodic phrase and the ratio of number of syllables in adjacent prosodic phrases. Different probability distributions are fitted to the data and the goodness of fit is determined using quantile-quantile plot. The key contribution of this paper is the observation that the total number of syllables in a sentence, number of syllables in individual prosodic phrases and the ratio of number of syllables between pairs of adjacent prosodic phrases in declarative sentences uniformly (across all languages) follow a Gamma distribution.

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