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Comparing the rhythm and melody of speech and music: The case of British English and French
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Image of FIG. 1.
FIG. 1.

Illustration of the prosogram, using the British English Sentence “Having a big car is not something I would recommend in this city” as uttered by a female speaker. In both graphs, the horizontal axis along the top shows time in seconds, the vertical axis shows semitones re (an arrow is placed at for reference), and the bottom shows IPA symbols for the vowels in this sentence. The onset and offset of each vowel is indicated by vertical dashed lines above the vowels’ IPA symbol. (a) Shows the original Fo contour, while (b) shows the prosogram. In this case, the prosogram has assigned level tones to all vowels save for the vowel in “car,” which was assigned a glide. Note that the pitches of the prosogram do not conform to any musical scale.

Image of FIG. 2.
FIG. 2.

Examples of duration and pitch coding of musical themes. (D122: Debussy’s Quartet in G minor for Strings, 1st movement, 2nd theme. E72: Elgar’s Symphony No. 1, in A Flat, Opus 55, 4th movement, 2nd theme.) D122 illustrates duration coding: the relative duration of each note is shown below the musical staff (see text for details). E72 illustrates pitch coding: each note is assigned a pitch value based on its semitone distance from A4 . The nPVI of note durations in D122 is 42.2. The coefficient of variation (CV) of pitch intervals in E72 is 0.79.

Image of FIG. 3.
FIG. 3.

The relationship between CV and nPVI for speech (a, b) and music (c, d). For speech each dot represents one sentence; for music each dot represents one theme. The best fitting regression line for each panel is also shown. English speech: , , , ; French speech: , , , ; English music: , , , ; French music: , , , . For the musical data, hatched lines show the lower possible limit of the nPVI and CV at 0 on each axis: the axes range into negative numbers for display purposes only, so that the points at (0,0) can be clearly seen. Themes with a score of 0 for nPVI and CV have notes of a single duration. There were two such English themes and eight such French themes.

Image of FIG. 4.
FIG. 4.

Result of Monte Carlo analysis for English vs French speech. The actual nPVI difference between the two languages in this study (19.1 points) is shown by an arrow. See text for details.

Image of FIG. 5.
FIG. 5.

Pitch interval variability in English and French speech and music. Pitch interval variability is defined as the CV of absolute interval size between pitches in a sequence. Error bars show standard errors.

Image of FIG. 6.
FIG. 6.

Rhythm-melody (RM) space for speech and music. Axes are nPVI and MIV. Error bars show standard errors.

Image of FIG. 7.
FIG. 7.

nPVI and MIV values for individual composers. Error bars show standard errors. Note the almost complete separation of English and French composers in RM space, despite large overlap between the nationalities along either single dimension.

Image of FIG. 8.
FIG. 8.

(a, b) Pitch and duration patterns for the French sentence “Les mères sortent de plus en plus rapidement de la maternité” as uttered by a female speaker. (c, d) Pitch and duration patterns for a French musical theme from Debussy’s Les Parfums de la Nuit. See text for details.


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Some basic statistics on the sentences studied.

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nPVI and CV for speech and music (mean and s.e.). The rightmost column gives the probability that the observed nPVI difference is due to the difference in CV.

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Pitch variability in speech and music, measured in terms of pitch height (the CV of pitch distances from the mean pitch of a sequence) or pitch intervals (the CV of pitch interval size within a sequence). Mean and s.e. are shown.


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752b84549af89a08dbdd7fdb8b9568b5 journal.articlezxybnytfddd
Scitation: Comparing the rhythm and melody of speech and music: The case of British English and French