Rate Variation as a Talker-specific Property in Bilingual Talkers

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Nonnative talkers tend to exhibit slower speech rates than native talkers at the group level. Here we ask whether individual variation in rate is language-general to the extent that L1 rate is a significant predictor of L2 rate within bilinguals. 62 nonnative English talkers participated in three speech production tasks in both their L1 (14 Cantonese, 14 Mandarin, 11 Korean, 4 Portuguese-Brazilian, 6 Spanish, 13 Turkish) and L2 (English), namely, reading a paragraph, spontaneously answering questions, and spontaneously describing a picture story. Two measurements of rate were automatically extracted from the recordings: speech rate (syllables per second), and articulation rate (syllables per second excluding silent pauses). As expected, L2 speech and articulation rates were overall slower than L1 speech and articulation rates for all tasks. Importantly, L2 speech rates and articulation rates were positively related to L1 speech rates and articulation rates, respectively. There were also significant differences in L2 speech rates and L2 articulation rates depending on L1 background and tasks. However, the positive relationship between L1 and L2 rates still holds with these other effects taken into consideration, suggesting that overall rate variation is partially an individual-specific property that transcends L1 and L2 within bilinguals.

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Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, v. 19, issue 1, art. 060235