UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Speech Science Forum - Tamara Rathcke (University of Konstanz)

04 May 2023, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

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Does language hit the beat? Studying rhythm across languages and populations by means of sensorimotor synchronisation

This event is free.

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Justin Lo


For decades, the concept of rhythm in language has been controversially debated (Roach 1982, Cummins 2012). There is a great deal of disagreement on the unit, the definition, the study method and the sheer existence of rhythm in language (cf. Nolan & Jeon 2014). However, it has also been noted that previous studies did not involve the core feature of rhythm – its ability to entrain movement (Cummins 2009, 2012). Rhythmic perception-action coupling through sensorimotor synchronization has been predominantly studied with non-verbal, simple and complex auditory signals like metronome and music (Repp 2005, Repp & Su 2013). Applications of the paradigm to language are relatively rare (Lidiji et al. 2011, Falk, Rathcke & Dalla Bella 2014, Rathcke, Falk & Dalla Bella 2019, 2021), and could provide a valuable tool for studying and understanding rhythmic properties of speech and language. In this talk, I will present a series of experiments with English, French and Japanese participants who synchronised finger taps in time with natural (i.e. non-metrical and non-isochronous) sentences of their native language. I will discuss what we can learn about language rhythm from movement-based paradigms with typically developing and clinical populations.

About the Speaker

Tamara Rathcke

at University of Konstanz

More about Tamara Rathcke