Different Degrees of Effects of Pauses on English Rate Perceived by English and Japanese Speakers

  • Yoshito Hirozane (Mejiro University)


Pausing is a very important factor when listeners judge the speaking rate. However, pause frequencies are quite different between English and Japanese languages. Roughly speaking, Japanese has three times as many pauses per sentence as English (Anderson- Hsieh & Venkatagiri, 1994). Another difference is that English has a ‘rallentando’ or a slowing down throughout the intonation phrase (Dankovicová, 1999), while Japanese has mora timing, where every mora is pronounced at approximately the same rate throughout an utterance (Han, 1962; Homma, 1981; Minagawa-Kawai, 1999; Port, Al-Ani, & Maeda, 1980; Sato, 1993). Due to such differences, the degrees of effects of pauses on perceived rate of English could be different. This hypothesis was tested with an experiment. Pairs of English passages, which were identical in physical rate but different in pause frequency, were presented to Japanese speakers and English speakers, who were asked to indicate which passage sounded faster or the same. The results showed that low pause frequency passages tended to be perceived as faster by both Japanese and English speakers. However, there was a higher proportion of Japanese speakers who judged low pause frequency passages as faster in speech rate compared to English speakers. Therefore, pauses appear to have a stronger impact on rate perception by Japanese speakers than English speakers because English speakers take advantage of rallentandos as well as pauses to detect syntactic boundaries while pauses are the only syntactic boundary marker which Japanese speakers can take advantage of.

How to Cite:

Hirozane, Y., (2018) “Different Degrees of Effects of Pauses on English Rate Perceived by English and Japanese Speakers”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 10(1).

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Published on
01 Jan 2019