There is evidence that an emerging variety of English spoken by young Londoners—Multicultural London English (MLE)—has a more even syllable rhythm than Southern British English (SBE). Given findings that native language rhythm influences the production of musical rhythms and text setting, we investigated possible musical consequences of this development. We hypothesized that the lower vocalic durational variability in MLE and (putatively) less salient stress distinctions would go along with a preference by MLE speakers for lower melodic durational variability and a higher tolerance for stress mismatches (the non-coincidence of stress/beat strong-weak patterns) compared to SBE speakers. An analysis of two popchart song corpora by MLE and SBE artists confirmed that durational variability was lower in the MLE songs, and that there were more stress mismatches. In a follow-up experiment, MLE and SBE participants read four short English sentences and then rated text settings in pairs of specially constructed song fragments with and without stress mismatches. MLE participants’ speech showed the expected lower variability in vocalic duration and syllabic prominence compared to SBE participants’ speech, while their text setting ratings showed a greater tolerance of stress mismatches.
- Received January 9, 2016.
- Accepted October 18, 2016.
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