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      Iambic-Trochaic Law Effects among Native Speakers of Spanish and English

      Laboratory Phonology

      Ubiquity Press

      phonology, metrical phonology, stress, rhythm, Iambic-Trochaic Law

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          Abstract

          The Iambic-Trochaic Law ( Bolton, 1894; Hayes, 1995; Woodrow, 1909) asserts that listeners associate greater intensity with group beginnings (a loud-first preference) and greater duration with group endings (a long-last preference). Hayes ( 1987; 1995) posits a natural connection between the prominences referred to in the ITL and the locations of stressed syllables in feet. However, not all lengthening in final positions originates with stressed syllables, and greater duration may also be associated with stress in nonfinal (trochaic) positions. The research described here challenged the notion that presumptive long-last effects necessarily reflect stress-related duration patterns, and investigated the general hypothesis that the robustness of long-last effects should vary depending on the strength of the association between final positions and increased duration, whatever its source. Two ITL studies were conducted in which native speakers of Spanish and of English grouped streams of rhythmically alternating syllables in which vowel intensity and/or duration levels were varied. These languages were chosen because while they are prosodically similar, increased duration on constituent-final syllables is both more common and more salient in English than Spanish. Outcomes revealed robust loud-first effects in both language groups. Long-last effects were significantly weaker in the Spanish group when vowel duration was varied singly. However, long-last effects were present and comparable in both language groups when intensity and duration were covaried. Intensity was a more robust predictor of responses than duration. A primary conclusion was that whether or not humans’ rhythmic grouping preferences have an innate component, duration-based grouping preferences, at least, and the magnitude of intensity-based effects are shaped by listeners’ backgrounds.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Rhythm

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            Rhythmic grouping biases constrain infant statistical learning.

             F. Hay,  Jenny Saffran (2011)
            Linguistic stress and sequential statistical cues to word boundaries interact during speech segmentation in infancy. However, little is known about how the different acoustic components of stress constrain statistical learning. The current studies were designed to investigate whether intensity and duration each function independently as cues to initial prominence (trochaic-based hypothesis) or whether, as predicted by the Iambic-Trochaic Law (ITL), intensity and duration have characteristic and separable effects on rhythmic grouping (ITL-based hypothesis) in a statistical learning task. Infants were familiarized with an artificial language (Experiments 1 & 3) or a tone stream (Experiment 2) in which there was an alternation in either intensity or duration. In addition to potential acoustic cues, the familiarization sequences also contained statistical cues to word boundaries. In speech (Experiment 1) and non-speech (Experiment 2) conditions, 9-month-old infants demonstrated discrimination patterns consistent with an ITL-based hypothesis: intensity signaled initial prominence and duration signaled final prominence. The results of Experiment 3, in which 6.5-month-old infants were familiarized with the speech streams from Experiment 1, suggest that there is a developmental change in infants' willingness to treat increased duration as a cue to word offsets in fluent speech. Infants' perceptual systems interact with linguistic experience to constrain how infants learn from their auditory environment.
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              Beyond the Iambic-Trochaic Law: the joint influence of duration and intensity on the perception of rhythmic speech

              The Iambic-Trochaic Law (ITL) asserts that listeners associate greater acoustic intensity with group beginnings and greater duration with group endings. Some researchers have assumed a natural connection between these perceptual tendencies and universal principles underlying linguistic categories of rhythm. The experimental literature on ITL effects is limited in three ways. Few studies of listeners' perceptions of alternating sound sequences have used speech-like stimuli, cross-linguistic testing has been inadequate and existing studies have manipulated intensity and duration singly, whereas these features vary together in natural speech. This paper reports the results of three experiments conducted with native Zapotec speakers and one with native English speakers. We tested listeners' grouping biases using streams of alternating syllables in which intensity and duration were varied separately, and sequences in which they were covaried. The findings suggest that care should be taken in assuming a natural connection between the ITL and universal principles of prosodic organisation.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                1868-6354
                Laboratory Phonology
                Ubiquity Press
                1868-6354
                07 October 2016
                : 7
                : 1
                Affiliations
                The University of Texas at Austin, US
                Article
                10.5334/labphon.42
                Copyright: © 2016 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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