The extent and degree of utterance-final word lengthening in spontaneous speech from 10 languages

Frank Seifart*, Jan Strunk, Swintha Danielsen, Iren Hartmann, Brigitte Pakendorf, Søren Wichmann, Alena Witzlack-Makarevich, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, Balthasar Bickel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Words in utterance-final positions are often pronounced more slowly than utterance-medial words, as previous studies on individual languages have shown. This paper provides a systematic cross-linguistic comparison of relative durations of final and penultimate words in utterances in terms of the degree to which such words are lengthened. The study uses time-aligned corpora from 10 genealogically, areally, and culturally diverse languages, including eight small, under-resourced, and mostly endangered languages, as well as English and Dutch. Clear effects of lengthening words at the end of utterances are found in all 10 languages, but the degrees of lengthening vary. Languages also differ in the relative durations of words that precede utterance-final words. In languages with on average short words in terms of number of segments, these penultimate words are also lengthened. This suggests that lengthening extends backwards beyond the final word in these languages, but not in languages with on average longer words. Such typological patterns highlight the importance of examining prosodic phenomena in diverse language samples beyond the small set of majority languages most commonly investigated so far.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20190063
JournalLinguistics Vanguard
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

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  • Final lengthening
  • Language documentation
  • Prosodic typology
  • Word duration


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