Portrait of Dr Tamara Rathcke

Dr Tamara Rathcke

Senior Lecturer in Linguistics


Dr Tamara Rathcke joined English Language and Linguistics at Kent as a Lecturer in 2013, following four years of postdoctoral research at the Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics in 2009-2013. She received her PhD (Comparative intonational phonology of Russian and German) from the Ludgwig-Maximilians-University of Munich in 2009 and an MA in Phonetics and Digital Signal Processing from the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel in 2003. Back in her home country, she studied German Language and Literature at the Immanuel-Kant-University of Kaliningrad from 1994 to 1998.
Tamara’s primary expertise is in phonetics and phonology, with a special focus on suprasegmental aspects of speech and language. Much of her research crosses disciplinary boundaries to psychology and music. Her paper 'When Speech Sounds Like Music' was featured in the September 2014 issue of APA PeePs (Particularly Exciting Experiments in Psychology), a collaboration between six of APA’s experimental psychology journals. Her collaborative research in this area has been supported by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust.
Tamara serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, and regularly reviews for conferences, journals, publishers and funders. 

Research interests

Dr Tamara Rathcke researches at the interfaces between phonetics, music and psychology. She is currently holding two research grants to support her work: 

  • A three-year Leverhulme Trust research grant studies the controversial topic of language rhythm from a cross-linguistic, typological perspective. The project’s methodological approach capitalises on the recent advances made by music psychology and movement sciences in the understanding of rhythm through studying perception-action coupling in sensorimotor synchronisation tasks. The results are expected to lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying rhythmic experience in language and a more elaborate linguistic concept of rhythm. 
  • A two-year project funded by the British Academy studies individual variation in the perception of the so-called 'speech-to-song illusion', and seeks to illuminate how the link between language and music is mediated by cognitive abilities and previous experience of the listener.  

Dr Tamara Rathcke is available to supervise dissertation projects in a range of topics in phonetics and phonology, including language and dialect comparisons, rhythm and intonation, phonetic aspects of language variation and change, pronunciation training for L2 acquisition. Students with an interest in links between language and music, and how those can be exploited in methods of foreign language acquisition are particularly welcome to discuss their projects.


Tamara teaches phonetics and phonology, language variation and change, speech perception and psycholinguistics at undergraduate and postgraduate level. 



  • Rathcke, T. (2017). How Truncating Are ‘Truncating Languages'? Evidence from Russian and German. Phonetica [Online] 73:194-228. Available at: https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/444190.
    Russian and German have been previously been described as ‘truncating‘, or cutting off target frequencies of the phrase-final pitch trajectories when the time available for voicing is compromised. However, supporting evidence is rare and limited to only a few pitch categories. This paper reports a production study conducted to document pitch adjustments to linguistic materials, in which the amount of voicing available for the realization of a pitch pattern varies from relatively long to extremely short. Productions of nuclear H+L*, H* and L*+H pitch accents followed by a low boundary tone were investigated in the two languages. The results of the study show that speakers of both ‘truncating languages’‘ do not exclusively utilize truncation exclusively when accommodating to different segmental environments. On the contrary, they employ several strategies – among them is truncation but also compression and temporal re-alignment –to produce the target pitch categories under increasing time pressure. Given that speakers can systematically apply all three adjustment strategies to produce some pitch patterns (H* L% in German and Russian) while not using truncation in others (H+L* L% particularly in Russian), we question the effectiveness of the typological classification of these two languages as ‘truncating’. Moreover, the phonetic detail of truncation varies considerably, both across and within the two languages, indicating that truncation cannot be easily be modeled as a unified phenomenon. The results further suggest that the phrase-final pitch adjustments are crucially sensitive to the phonological composition of the tonal string and the status of a particular tonal event (associated vs. boundary tone), and do not apply to falling vs. rising pitch contours across the board, as previously put forward for German. Implications for the intonational phonology and prosodic typology are addressed in the discussion.
  • Smith, R. and Rathcke, T. (2016). Glasgow Gloom or Leeds Glue? Dialect-Specific Vowel Duration Constrains Lexical Segmentation and Access. Phonetica [Online]:1-24. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000444857.
    Timing cues are important in many aspects of speech processing, fromidentifying segments to locating word and phrase boundaries. They vary across accents, yet representation and processing of this variation are poorly understood. We investigated whether an accent difference in vowel duration affects lexical segmentation and access. In Glasgow English (GE), /i u e o/ are shorter than in Leeds English (LE), especially for /i u/ before voiced stops and nasals. In a word-spotting experiment, GE and LE participants heard nonsense sequences (e.g. pobegloomezh) containing embedded words (gloom, glue), with segmental qualities intermediate between GE and LE. Critical vowel durations were manipulated according to accent (GE-appropriate vowels shorter than LE-appropriate ones) and phonological context (vowels shortest before voiceless stops < voiced stops/nasals < voiced fricatives). GE participants generally spotted words like gloom more accurately with GE-appropriate than LE-appropriate vowels. LE participants were less accurate than GE participants to spot words like gloom with GE-appropriate vowels, but more likely to spot embeddings like glue. These results were broadly as predicted based on the accent differences, but depended less than expected on the accent-specific phonological constraints. We discuss theoretical implications regarding the representation of duration and the time course of lexical access.
  • Rathcke, T. et al. (2016). The beauty in a beast: Minimising the effects of diverse recording quality on vowel formant measurements in sociophonetic real-time studies. Speech Communication [Online] 86:24-41. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.specom.2016.11.001.
    Sociophonetic real-time studies of vowel variation and change rely on acoustic analyses of sound recordings made at different times, often using different equipment and data collection procedures. The circumstances of a recording are known to affect formant tracking and may therefore compromise the validity of conclusions about sound changes made on the basis of real-time data. In this paper, a traditional F1/F2-analysis using linear predictive coding (LPC) was applied to the vowels /i u a/ extracted from spontaneous speech corpora of Glaswegian vernacular, that were recorded in the 1970s and 2000s. We assessed the technical quality of each recording, concentrating on the average levels of noise and the properties of spectral balance, and showed that the corpus comprised of mixed quality data. A series of acoustic vowel analyses subsequently unveiled that formant measurements using LPC were sensitive to the technical specification of a recording, with variable magnitudes of the effects for vowels of different qualities. We evaluated the performance of three commonly used formant normalisation procedures (Lobanov, Nearey and Watt-Fabricius) as well as normalisations by a distance ratio metric and statistical estimation, and compared these results to raw Bark-scaled formant data, showing that some of the approaches could ameliorate the impact of technical issues better than the others. We discuss the implications of these results for sociophonetic research that aims to minimise extraneous influences on recorded speech data while unveiling gradual, potentially small-scale sound changes across decades.
  • Stuart-Smith, J. et al. (2015). The private life of stops: VOT in a real-time corpus of spontaneous Glaswegian. Laboratory Phonology [Online]:505-549. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/lp-2015-0015.
    While voice onset time (VOT) is known to be sensitive to a range of phonetic and linguistic factors, much less is known about VOT in spontaneous speech, since most studies consider stops in single words, in sentences, and/or in read speech. Scottish English is typically said to show less aspirated voiceless stops than other varieties of English, but there is also variation, ranging from unaspirated stops in vernacular speakers to more aspirated stops in Scottish
    Standard English; change in the vernacular has also been suggested. This paper presents results from a study which used a fast, semi-automated procedure for analyzing positive VOT, and applied it to stressed syllable-initial stops from a
    real- and apparent-time corpus of naturally-occurring spontaneous Glaswegian vernacular speech. We confirm significant effects on VOT for place of articulation and local speaking rate, and trends for vowel height and lexical frequency.
    With respect to time, our results are not consistent with previous work reporting generally shorter VOT in elderly speakers, since our results from models which control for local speech rate show lengthening over real-time in the elderly speakers in our sample. Overall, our findings suggest that VOT in both voiceless and voiced stops is lengthening over the course of the twentieth century in this variety of Scottish English. They also support observations from other studies, both from Scotland and beyond, indicating that gradient shifts along the VOT
    continuum reflect subtle sociolinguistic control.
  • Rathcke, T. and Smith, R. (2015). Speech Timing and Linguistic Rhythm: On the Acoustic Bases of Rhythm Typologies. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America [Online] 137:2834-2845. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4919322.
    Research into linguistic rhythm has been dominated by the idea that languages can be classified according to rhythmic templates, amenable to assessment by acoustic measures of vowel and consonant durations. This study tested predictions of two proposals explaining the bases of rhythmic typologies: the Rhythm Class Hypothesis which assumes that the templates arise from an extensive vs a limited use of durational contrasts, and the Control and Compensation Hypothesis which proposes that the templates are rooted in more vs less flexible speech production strategies. Temporal properties of segments, syllables and rhythmic feet were examined in two accents of British English, a “stress-timed” variety from Leeds, and a “syllable-timed” variety spoken by Panjabi-English bilinguals from Bradford. Rhythm metrics were calculated. A perception study confirmed that the speakers of the two varieties differed in their perceived rhythm. The results revealed that both typologies were informative in that to a certain degree, they predicted temporal patterns of the two varieties. None of the metrics tested was capable of adequately reflecting the temporal complexity found in the durational data. These findings contribute to the critical evaluation of the explanatory adequacy of rhythm metrics. Acoustic bases and limitations of the traditional rhythmic typologies are discussed.
  • Rathcke, T. and Stuart-Smith, J. (2015). On the Tail of the Scottish Vowel Length Rule in Glasgow. Language and Speech [Online] 59:404-430. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0023830915611428.
    One of the most famous sound features of Scottish English is the short/long timing alternation of /i u ai/vowels, which depends on the morpho-phonemic environment, and is known of as the Scottish Vowel Length Rule (SVLR). These alternations make the status of vowel quantity in Scottish English (quasi-)phonemic but are also susceptible to change, particularly in situations of intense sustained dialect contact with Anglo-English. Does the SVLR change in Glasgow where dialect contact at the community level is comparably low? The present study sets out to tackle this question, and tests two hypotheses involving (1) external influences due to dialect-contact and (2) internal, prosodically-induced factors of sound change. Durational analyses of /i u a/ were conducted on a corpus of spontaneous Glaswegian speech from the 1970s and 2000s, and four speaker groups were compared, two of middle-aged men, and two of adolescent boys. Our hypothesis that the development of the SVLR over time may be internally constrained and interact with prosody was largely confirmed. We observed weakening effects in its implementation which were localised in phrase-medial unaccented positions in all speaker groups, and in phrase-final positions in the speakers born after the Second World War. But unlike some other varieties of Scottish or Northern English which show weakening of the Rule under a prolonged contact with Anglo-English, dialect contact seems to be having less impact on the durational patterns in Glaswegian vernacular, probably because of the overall reduced potential for a regular, everyday contact in the West given the different demographies.
  • Smith, R. et al. (2014). Introduction: Communicative Rhythms in Brain and Behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Special Issue) [Online] 369:20130389-20130389. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0389.
  • Falk, S., Rathcke, T. and Dalla Bella, S. (2014). When Speech Sounds Like Music. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance [Online] 40:1491-1506. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036858.
    Repetition can boost memory and perception. However, repeating the same stimulus several times in immediate succession also induces intriguing perceptual transformations and illusions. Here, we investigate the Speech to Song Transformation (S2ST), a massed repetition effect in the auditory modality, which crosses the boundaries between language and music. In the S2ST, a phrase repeated several times shifts to being heard as sung. To better understand this unique cross-domain transformation, we examined the perceptual determinants of the S2ST, in particular the role of acoustics. In 2 Experiments, the effects of 2 pitch properties and 3 rhythmic properties on the probability and speed of occurrence of the transformation were examined. Results showed that both pitch and rhythmic properties are key features fostering the transformation. However, some properties proved to be more conducive to the S2ST than others. Stable tonal targets that allowed for the perception of a musical melody led more often and quickly to the S2ST than scalar intervals. Recurring durational contrasts arising from segmental grouping favoring a metrical interpretation of the stimulus also facilitated the S2ST. This was, however, not the case for a regular beat structure within and across repetitions. In addition, individual perceptual abilities allowed to predict the likelihood of the S2ST. Overall, the study demonstrated that repetition enables listeners to reinterpret specific prosodic features of spoken utterances in terms of musical structures. The findings underline a tight link between language and music, but they also reveal important differences in communicative functions of prosodic structure in the 2 domains.
  • Baumann, S. and Rathcke, T. (2013). Disambiguating the Scope of Negation by Prosodic Cues in Three Varieties of German. Lingua [Online] 131:29-48. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2013.03.004.
    Two perception experiments were conducted with subjects from Kiel, Düsseldorf and Vienna to investigate the role prosody plays (a) in resolving scope of negation ambiguities and (b) in judging the strength of phrasal breaks in German. The prosodic means tested were pause, intonation contour and peak alignment. Results reveal that the relevance of the cues varies depending on the task: for the (semantic) scope disambiguation task, intonation contour proves to be the most decisive factor, whereas presence of pause turns out to be most influential for the (metalinguistic) phrasing task. This result implies that the question of how German listeners resolve scope ambiguities cannot simply be attributed to the presence or absence of a phrasal break between a main and a subordinate clause. It rather seems to depend on a more general perception of ‘cohesion’ between the two clauses as indicated by prosodic means. Flat hat contours and late peak alignment patterns lead to a higher level of cohesion and an increase in wide scope interpretations, whereas pointed hats with early peak accents are typical of narrow scope readings. The results further reveal a significant difference between the varieties due to an increased number of narrow scope readings in Viennese listeners. Since Viennese German displays later peaks than Northern varieties, this outcome suggests that Viennese subjects interpret (late) peaks as earlier than listeners from Kiel and Düsseldorf.
  • Rathcke, T. (2013). On the Neutralizing Status of Truncation in Intonation: A Perception Study of Boundary Tones in German and Russian. Journal of Phonetics [Online] 41:172-185. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2013.01.003.
    The study examined the effect of f0-truncation on the perception of phrase-final boundary tones in two truncating languages with similarities in their phonological inventories, German and Russian. In particular, the identification of truncated rise–falls (L*+H L%) and rise–plateaus (L*+H H%) under maximized time pressure was addressed, i.e. the nuclear syllable was phrase-final and consisted of a short vowel with voiceless onset and coda consonants. The results revealed that in both languages, truncation did not lead to a complete perceptual merger of the two forms but the situation was found closer to a complete neutralization in Russian as compared to German. More specifically, the temporal domain was exploited to preserve the contrast between L% and H% in German. The listeners showed a slight phrase-final f0-drop to be essential for the identification of L% as opposed to a simple f0-rise which was sufficient to identify H%. In Russian, the frequency domain was predominantly utilized to distinguish between the underlying L% and H% with the unexpected result that a strong upscaling of all f0-targets was necessary for L% to be perceived. The results are discussed in terms of the autosegmental-metrical theory of intonation; and some parallels are drawn between phrase-final positions at segmental and prosodic levels.
  • Rathcke, T. (2006). A perceptual study on Russian questions and statements. Arbeitsberichte des Instituts für Phonetik und digitale Sprachverarbeitung der Universität Kiel (AIPUK) [Online] 37:51-62. Available at: http://www.ipds.uni-kiel.de/pub_exx/aipuk/aipuk_37/37_5_Rathcke.pdf.
    This paper presents the results of perception experiments designed to investigate the contribution of f0-peak rise, height and alignment to signaling interrogative vs. declarative sentence mode in Russian. The results of the study show that the major perceptual cues for this category distinction are the f0-peak alignment and the slope
    of the rise. According to the results, the primary perceptual cues for questions are a steep rise and a late peak alignment at the offset of the accented vowel, whereas the more gradual rise and early f0-peak alignment at the onset of the accented vowel are strong cues for a declarative mode. The height of the f0-peak has no influence on the
    category distinction. The results are discussed in terms of the phonological modeling of Russian intonation as well as in terms of the frequency code for universal meanings in intonation.


  • Rathcke, T. (2009). Komparative Phonetik und Phonologie der Intonationssysteme des Deutschen und Russischen. Herbert Utz Verlag.
    Die Arbeit beschäftigt sich mit den intonatorischen Besonderheiten zweier indoeuropäischer Sprachen. Sie umfasst sowohl theoretische Überlegungen zum phänomengerechten Sprachvergleich als auch empirische Untersuchungen, die sich mit den realisatorischen, semantischen und phonotaktischen Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschieden zwischen den intonatorischen Systemen des Deutschen und des Russischen beschäftigen. Für jeden der drei Teilbereiche (Phonetik, Semantik, Phonotaktik) werden – nach einem umfassenden Überblick über die aktuelle Intonationsforschung und ihre Ergebnisse im Hinblick auf die Intonationsphonologie der beiden Sprachen – mehrere Fragestellungen formuliert, die dann in drei komparativ ausgerichteten Experimenten beleuchtet werden. Einen großen Raum nimmt die kritische Diskussion der heutzutage zum Standard gehörenden autosegmentell-metrischen Intonationsphonologie ein. Die Vorteile und die Probleme der Theorie werden vor dem Hintergrund der vorgelegten empirischen Befunde erörtert.

Book section

  • Stuart-Smith, J. et al. (2017). Changing sounds in a changing city: an acoustic phonetic investigation of real-time change over a century of Glaswegian. in: Montgomery, C. and Moore, E. eds. Language and a Sense of Place. Studies in Language and Region. Cambridge University Press, pp. 38-65. Available at: http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/sociolinguistics/language-and-sense-place-studies-language-and-region?format=HB#OAOMAeOysGHaU7M3.97.
    This paper contributes some new findings towards answering these general theoretical questions about real-time sound change and place. Our study exploits the possibilities offered for a longer-term perspective on real-time change by combining archive recordings from the First World War with those from a real- and apparent-time corpus from the 1970s. We consider three aspects of urban Scots, vowel quality and duration, and the realization of word-initial /l/, using acoustic phonetic measures. The real-time comparisons reveal change in progress in all three features. The direction of the changes is intriguing, since despite the substantial geographical and social changes which have taken place across the UK during especially the second half of the 20th century, and the impact of these in terms of contact-induced changes on urban British accents (e.g. Foulkes and Docherty 1999), it appears that linguistic and social factors to do with the dialect and its location have played a stronger role.
  • Stuart-Smith, J. et al. (2015). A real-time study of plosives in Glaswegian using an automatic measurement algorithm: Change or age-grading? in: Torgersen, E. et al. eds. Language Variation - European Perspectives V. John Benjamins, pp. 225-238. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/silv.17.
    This paper presents a collaborative study of variation and potential change in the voicing contrast in Scottish English plosives, analyzed in recordings from twelve vernacular female speakers of different generations made in the 1970s and the 2000s in Glasgow. We adapted an existing automatic measurement algorithm for predicting Voice Onset Time (VOT) originally developed for voiceless stops, for the analysis of voiced and voiceless plosives in casual sociolinguistic speech recordings of different kinds. Our semi-automatic method, which involved quick manual coding of automatically-generated positive VOT predictions, resulted in correct or close to correct measures for two-thirds of our data, and allowed us to process a very large number of tokens very quickly, especially for voiceless stops. The VOT results themselves indicate that the voicing contrast is being maintained, but suggest that a change in the phonetic realization of the stops may have been in progress since the middle of the 20th century, specifically a lengthening of aspiration for /p/ and /t/, and a trend to a longer release phase in their voiced counterparts.
  • Falk, S. and Rathcke, T. (2011). The Speech-To-Song Illusion Revisited. in: Debowska-Koz?owska, K. and Dziubalska-Ko?aczyk, K. eds. On Words and Sounds. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 1-26. Available at: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/on-words-and-sounds-16.
    The present study investigates the boundaries of speech and song from an acoustic-perceptual perspective. Using the speech-to-song illusion as a method, we tested rhythmic and tonal hypotheses in order to find out whether acoustic characteristics can cue the perceptual classification of a sentence by German listeners as sung or spoken. First, our results show that, despite individual differences, the speech-to-song illusion is a robust perceptual phenomenon comparable to those known in visual perception. Second, the experiment revealed that acoustic parameters – especially tonal structure – facilitate the perceptual shift from speech to song pointing to an acoustically guided decoding strategy for speech- vs. song-like signals.
  • Rathcke, T. and Harrington, J. (2010). The Variability of Early Accent Peaks in Standard German. in: Fougeron, C. et al. eds. Laboratory Phonology 10. Berlin/ New York: De Gruyter, pp. 533-556. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110224917.5.533.
    This paper is concerned with the relationships between 'early' pitch accents in German and with whether downstep in German is phonological or phonetic. At the core of our analysis is an investigation into the differences between two kinds of pitch accents in which the pitch peak precedes the accented vowel: these are H+!H* and H+L* which are claimed to be phonologically contrastive in German. We made use of two experimental procedures: (1) a production experiment in which speakers were asked to imitate synthetically manipulated sentences and (2)a semantic differential experiment in which listeners rated the perceived meaning of those sentences on eight semantic scales. Although both the imitation and perception experiment provided evidence for a distinction between an early and a later (H*) peak accent, the results pointed neither to a three-way distinction, nor to a categorical distinction between H+!H* and H+L*. Finally we present some results from an analysis of both English and German corpora which suggests that the difference between these two peaks may be phonetic and attributable to the number of syllables following the nuclear accent in the tail. Based on these results and from theoretical considerations, we argue that H+!H* is an inappropriate pitch accent category in the inventory of paradigmatic phonological intonational contrasts of standard German.

Conference or workshop item

  • Hiroyuki, T. and Rathcke, T. (2016). Then, What is Charisma? The Role of Audio-visual Prosody in L1 and L2 Political Speeches. in: Phonetik & Phonologie im deutschsprachigen Raum.
    Charisma plays a significant role in political speeches, and determines the ability of a politician to carry an audience. While acoustic features of charisma have received some empirical attention, the contribution of visual prosody has been mostly neglected in studies focusing on features of a charismatic appearance. Unknown are also the audio-visual cues to charisma in non-native speakers. This small-scale study investigated speeches delivered by Donald Trump (L1 American English) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (L1 Austrian German, L2 American English). Video and audio recordings of their political speeches (around 25 min per speaker) and the transcripts were used. The use of pitch range, speech rate, emphatic stress and hand gestures was analysed. In order to establish the core means of the speakers’ persuasive influence on their audiences, within-speaker comparisons were conducted for phrases with and without cheering from the audiences. The results showed some differences in the use of the audio-visual prosodic features between the L1 and L2 speaker as well as some similarities, and suggest that charisma is not easily attributable to a fixed set of prosodic means but may be best understood as a skillful modulation of audio-visual prosody in social interaction.
  • Rathcke, T., Chevalier, F. and Stuart-Smith, J. (2016). What is the fate of Scottish Vowel Length Rule in Glasgow? in: Phonetik & Phonologie im deutschsprachigen Raum.
    This paper studies the longitudinal development of a vowel timing alternation known as the “Scottish Vowel Length Rule” in a distinctive variety of Scottish English spoken in Glasgow by working-class men and women. Combining apparent-time and real-time evidence, we show that the implementation of the Rule has changed over time, though unlike in many other varieties of Scottish English, the factors shaping its fate seem to be internal rather than external. Overall, Glaswegian English behaves like a quantity language and controls for prosodic timing effects while preserving the phonological timing alternation; and this is despite a marginal, quasi-phonemic status of the Rule.
  • Bockelmann, J. et al. (2016). Opa vs Oper: Neutralization of /?/ and unstressed /a/ contrast in a perception and production study. in: Phonetik & Phonologie im deutschsprachigen Raum.. Available at: http://www.phonetik.uni-muenchen.de/institut/veranstaltungen/pundp12/downloads/PundP12_Book_of_Abstracts.pdf.
    The present study examined differences in production and perception of the German vowels /a/ and /?/ in word-final,
    unstressed position. In the first experiment, 3 male and 3 female speakers produced minimal pairs embedded in meaningful sentences and varied in prosodic environment. In the second experiment, the minimal pairs were extracted from the context and presented to 44 listeners for a forced-choice identification task. Results showed a better-than-chance performance that was, however, mainly driven by one male speaker. Temporal and spectral measures confirmed that only
    this speaker produced an acoustic difference between /a/ and /?/.
  • Rathcke, T. and Smith, R. (2015). Rhythm class perception by expert phoneticians. in: 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. London: International Phonetic Association. Available at: http://www.icphs2015.info/pdfs/Papers/ICPHS0403.pdf.
    This paper contributes to the recent debate in linguistic-phonetic rhythm research dominated by the idea of a perceptual dichotomy involving “syllable-timed” and “stress-timed” rhythm classes. Some previous studies have shown that it is difficult both to find reliable acoustic correlates of these classes and also to obtain reliable perceptual data for their support.
    In an experiment, we asked 12 British English phoneticians to classify the rhythm class of 36 samples spoken by 24 talkers in six dialects of British English. Expert listeners’ perception was shown to be guided by two factors: (1) the assumed rhythm class affiliation of a particular dialect and (2) one acoustic cue related to the prosodic hierarchy, namely the degree of accentual lengthening.
    We argue that the rhythm class hypothesis has reached its limits in informing empirical enquiry into linguistic rhythm, and new research avenues are needed to understand this multi-layered phenomenon.
  • Arvaniti, A. and Rathcke, T. (2015). The role of stress in syllable monitoring. in: 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. London: International Phonetic Association. Available at: http://www.icphs2015.info/pdfs/Papers/ICPHS0635.pdf.
    In a syllable monitoring experiment, Greek and English speakers (N = 20 per language) monitored for [ma] embedded in Greek real and nonce words; [ma] was word-initial, word-medial or word-final, and stressed, unstressed or rhythmically stressed. Both groups spotted stressed [ma] faster than unstressed [ma]; unstressed [ma] was spotted faster by Greek than English participants. Rhythmically stressed [ma] patterned with unstressed [ma] for both groups. Word category (real or nonce) did not affect latencies. These results show that stress played an important role whether participants were responding to unfamiliar (nonce) stimuli (Greeks) or processing in an altogether unfamiliar language with different stress requirements (English). The importance of stress did not depend on rhythm class, as has sometimes been argued, though familiarity with language did affect responses. The results do not support the view that processing is related to rhythm class and confirm that Greek makes only a binary stress distinction.
  • Rathcke, T. and Smith, R. (2011). Exploring Timing in Accents of British English. in: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Phonetic Sciences. pp. 1666-1669. Available at: https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/icphs/icphs2011.
    This paper reports an investigation of speech timing in spontaneous speech of four British English accents spoken in Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford. We tested the effect of lexical stress, word boundary and syllable weight on syllable durations and found systematic differences between Glasgow and Cambridge on all factors, with Glasgow being the most conservative about lengthening. Differences were also observed between Leeds and Cambridge in terms of syllable weight, and between Leeds and Bradford with respect to word-final lengthening. A new rhythm metric, the multi-factorial dispersion coefficient, was found to effectively separate the four accents by capturing the effects of not only structural lengthening but also phonetic variability. This proposed measure seeks to combine the elegance of acoustic rhythm metrics with the exploratory power of prosodic timing research.
  • Baumann, S. and Rathcke, T. (2011). Interpreting the Scope of Negation in Three Varieties of German – The Effect of Prosodic Cues. in: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Phonetic Sciences. pp. 296-299. Available at: https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/icphs/icphs2011.
    This paper presents two perception experiments on three German varieties investigating the effect of pause, intonation
    contour and peak alignment on (1) the scope of negation and (2) the strength of phrasal breaks. Subjects
    from Kiel, Vienna and Düsseldorf participated in both experiments which drew on the same set of stimuli. Results
    show that the interpretation of prosodic cues is task-specific, with intonation contour being predominantly
    used for scope disambiguation and pause being used for phrasing. This implies that the question of how
    German listeners resolve scope ambiguities cannot simply be attributed to the presence or absence of a phrasal
    break between the main and the subordinate clause. The interpretation of scope as wide vs. narrow rather depends
    on a more general impression of ‘cohesion’ between the clauses as indicated by prosodic means.
  • Stuart-Smith, J. et al. (2011). Responding to Accents after Experiencing Interactive or Mediated Speech. in: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Phonetic Sciences. pp. 1914-1917. Available at: https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/icphs/icphs2011.
    Very little known is about how speakers learn about and/or respond to speech experienced without the possibility for interaction. This paper reports an experiment which considers the effects of two kinds of exposure to speech (interactive or non-interactive mediated) on Scottish English speakers’ responses to another accent (Southern British English), for two processing tasks, phonological awareness and speech production. Only marginal group effects are found according to exposure type. The main findings show a difference between subjects according to exposure type before exposure, and individual shifts in responses to speech according to exposure type.
  • Falk, S. and Rathcke, T. (2010). On the Speech-To-Song Illusion: Evidence from German. in: Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Speech Prosody.. Available at: http://speechprosody2010.illinois.edu/program.php.
    The present study investigates the boundaries of speech and song from an acoustic-perceptual perspective. Using the speech-to-song illusion as a method, we tested rhythmic and tonal hypotheses to find out whether acoustic characteristics can cue the perceptual classification of a sentence by German listeners as sung or spoken. First, our results show that, despite individual differences, the speech-to-song illusion is a robust perceptual phenomenon comparable to those known in visual perception. Second, the experiment revealed that acoustic parameters – especially tonal structure – facilitate the perceptual shift from speech to song pointing to an acoustically guided decoding strategy for speech- vs. song-like signals.
  • Kleber, F. and Rathcke, T. (2008). More on the „Segmental Anchoring“ of Prenuclear Rises: Evidence from East Middle German. in: Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Speech Prosody. pp. 583-586.
    The paper presents results from a production study on the alignment of prenuclear rising accents in East Middle German in which we focus on two research questions: (1) to what extent can an intermediate variety be integrated in the phonetic alignment continuum from south to north as postulated by Atterer and Ladd (2004), and (2) to what extent do time pressure factors from the left-hand context influence the stability of tonal alignment. We rearranged the test material used in Atterer and Ladd (2004) with respect to unstressed syllables preceding the accented syllable. Our results show that L is aligned earlier in East Middle German than in Northern and Southern German and that left-sided time pressure effects the alignment of L, but not of H.
  • Bombien, L. et al. (2007). Articulatory Strengthening in Initial German /kl/ clusters under Prosodic Variation. in: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Phonetic Sciences. pp. 457-460.
    This study investigates the effects of varying prosodic boundary strength and lexical stress on domain initial /kl/ clusters in German by means of Electropalatography (EPG). Recordings of 7 subjects were analyzed using temporal and spatial parameters derived from the EPG data. Temporal and spatial parameters show that boundary effects are stronger for the first consonant while in the temporal domain stress affects the second consonant rather than the first. Overlap was found to be greater in unstressed position and at lower prosodic boundaries. Furthermore, /kl/ appears to be more susceptible to stress effects when not preceded by a boundary.
  • Rathcke, T. and Harrington, J. (2007). The Phonetics and Phonology of High and Low Tones in Two Falling f0-contours in Standard German. in: Proceedings of the 8th Interspeech. pp. 982-985.
    The present paper reports the results of an imitation experiment developed to evaluate empirically the validity of the AM-analyses given for two falling f0-patterns in German by different researchers. We look at the phonetic realisations of temporal alignment and frequency scaling of high and low tonal targets in varying syllabic environments. The effects of two phonetic factors were tested: (1) syllable structure of the postnuclear part of a phrase and (2) syllabic structure of the nuclear syllable. The results show that scaling and alignment are affected by the investigated factors in an unexpected way, so that predictions from different AM-analyses could not be confirmed by the data. We discussed the implications of the results in the light of the proposed analyses.
  • Rathcke, T. (2006). Relevance of f0 Peak Shape and Alignment for the Perception of a Functional Contrast in Russian. in: Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Speech Prosody. pp. 65-68. Available at: http://sprosig.isle.illinois.edu/sp2006/.
    This paper reports a perception experiment carried out to investigate perceptually relevant properties of the f0-contours in yes/no-questions and contrastive emphatic statements in modern Russian spoken by young people in Kaliningrad. Only pitch cues were tested (alignment and shape of F0 peaks, presence of a peak plateau). A semantic congruity test was performed to assess these form-function relations. The results indicate that peak alignment is the strongest cue for the perceptual distinction between questions and emphatic statements. Contour shape serves as a secondary cue, with the effect of a peak plateau being very subtle. Implications for the phonological modeling of Russian intonation are discussed.
  • Rathcke, T. and Harrington, J. (2006). Is there a Distinction between H+!H* and H+L* in Standard German? Evidence from an Acoustic and Auditory Analysis. in: Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Speech Prosody. pp. 783-786. Available at: http://sprosig.isle.illinois.edu/sp2006/.
    This paper is concerned with intonation in German and whether there is a phonological distinction between two types of early peaks H+L* and H+!H*. Speech perception and production data are presented to shed light on this issue. The results show little evidence for a phonological distinction between these categories. The results are interpreted in terms of the relationship between downstep and early peak placement in German.

Edited journal

  • Smith, R. et al. (2014). Communicative Rhythms in Brain and Behaviour Smith, R. et al. eds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Special Issue) [Special Issue of Philosophical Transactions B, volume 369, issue 1658] 369:20130389-20130398. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0389.
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