Constrained Temporal Variation in Speech

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The characteristic durations of speech sounds vary considerably across languages, dialects, and even speakers of the same dialect. Analyses of increasingly large speech corpora reveal, however, that temporal variation in speech is highly constrained. Within a language/dialect, different speakers produce duration patterns -- such as the distinction in length between tense and lax vowels -- that are related by simple translation and scaling transformations. These transformations are consistent within broad sound classes (e.g., vowels vs. stop consonants), and similar relations are found when the characteristic durations of the same sounds are compared across languages. 



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