Tapping into linguistic rhythm

Tamara Rathcke, Chia-yuan Lin, Simone Falk, Simone Dalla Bella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Rhythmic properties of speech and language have been a matter of long-standing debates, with both traditional production and perception studies delivering controversial findings. The present study examines the possibility of investigating linguistic rhythm using movementbased paradigms. Informed by the theory and methods of sensorimotor synchronization, we developed two finger-tapping tasks (synchronization and reproduction), and tested them with English participants. The synchronization task required participants to tap along with the beat of a looped sentence while the reproduction task asked them to tap out the perceived beat patterns after listening to a sentence loop. The results showed that both tasks engaged participants in period tracking of a beat-like structure in the linguistic stimuli, though synchronization did so to a greater extent. Patterns obtained in the reproduction task tended to converge toward participants’ spontaneous tapping rates and showed a degree of regularization. Data collected in the synchronization task displayed a consistent anchoring of taps with the vowel onsets. Overall, synchronization performance with language resembled many well-established findings of sensorimotor synchronization with metronome and music. We conclude that our setting of the sensorimotor synchronization paradigm—finger tapping along with looped spoken phrases—is a valid experimentation tool for studying rhythm perception in language.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalLaboratory Phonology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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