Information encoding and transmission profiles of first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) speech

Ann R. Bradlow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Inspired by information theoretic analyses of L1 speech and language, this study proposes that L1 and L2 speech exhibit distinct information encoding and transmission profiles in the temporal domain. Both the number and average duration of acoustic syllables (i.e., intensity peaks in the temporal envelope) were automatically measured from L1 and L2 recordings of standard texts in English, French, and Spanish. Across languages, L2 acoustic syllables were greater in number (more acoustic syllables/text) and longer in duration (fewer acoustic syllables/second). While substantial syllable reduction (fewer acoustic than orthographic syllables) was evident in both L1 and L2 speech, L2 speech generally exhibited less syllable reduction, resulting in low information density (more syllables with less information/syllable). Low L2 information density compounded low L2 speech rate yielding very low L2 information transmission rate (i.e., less information/second). Overall, this cross-language comparison establishes low information transmission rate as a language-general, distinguishing feature of L2 speech.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-162
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 18 2022


  • communication efficiency
  • information density
  • second-language speech production
  • speech rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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