in this study we examine a rhythmic pattern known as the Scotch Snap (SS): a sixteenth-note on the beat followed by a dotted eighth-note. A musical corpus analysis shows that the SS is common in both Scottish and English songs, but virtually nonexistent in German and Italian songs. We explore possible linguistic correlates for this phenomenon. Our reasoning is that languages in which stressed syllables are often short might tend to favor the SS pattern. The traditional distinction between long and short vowels correlates partly with the SS pattern across languages, but not completely. (German allows short stressed vowels, but the SS pattern is not common in German music.) We then examine the duration of stressed syllables in four modern speech corpora: one British English, one German, and two Italian. British English shows a much higher proportion of very short stressed syllables (less than 100 ms) than the other two languages. Four vowels account for a large proportion of very short stressed syllables in British English, and also constitute a large proportion of SS tokens in our English musical corpus. This is the first study known to us that establishes a correlation between speech rhythms in languages and musical rhythms in the songs of those languages.
- Received August 12, 2010.
- Accepted March 1, 2011.
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