Rhythm: A Comparative Study of Indexes

Ong Po Keng Fiona

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


Rhythm indexes have been designed in the attempt to measure or quantify the rhythmic patterns of a language based on acoustic studies. The recent indexes developed by Deterding (2001), Low et al (2000) and Ramus et al (1999) are based on Dauer's (1983, 1987) proposal of the phonetic and phonological properties of languages. These indexes have been employed in research studies which include medical research, language acquisition and development as well as socio-linguistics.

In view of the crucial role of rhythm indexes, this Academic Exercise (AE) seeks to investigate the reliability of these three indexes by examining whether there is any variation in results when applied by different measurers to conversational speech data. It also intends to identify the problems in the measurement process with the aim of suggesting appropriate adaptations to improve on these indexes. Finally, it attempts to verify how strong the correlation is between the results obtained through measurement and the perceptual impression of rhythm.

Evidence was found through acoustic and statistical analysis that Low et al's index in measuring vowels showed a better correlate to the perception of rhythm but further guidelines are needed to enhance the reliability of this index. The issue of inter-rater reliability in measurement also emerged as an area that requires further exploration to limit subjectivity and bias in research.