Variability in word duration as a function of probability, speech style, and prosody

Rachel E. Baker, Ann R. Bradlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This article examines how probability (lexical frequency and previous mention), speech style, and prosody affect word duration, and how these factors interact. Participants read controlled materials in clear and plain speech styles. As expected, more probable words (higher frequencies and second mentions) were significantly shorter than less probable words, and words in plain speech were significantly shorter than those in clear speech. Interestingly, we found second mention reduction effects in both clear and plain speech, indicating that while clear speech is hyper-articulated, this hyper-articulation does not override probabilistic effects on duration. We also found an interaction between mention and frequency, but only in plain speech. High frequency words allowed more second mention reduction than low frequency words in plain speech, revealing a tendency to hypo-articulate as much as possible when all factors support it. Finally, we found that first mentions were more likely to be accented than second mentions. However, when these differences in accent likelihood were controlled, a significant second mention reduction effect remained. This supports the concept of a direct link between probability and duration, rather than a relationship solely mediated by prosodic prominence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-413
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Accenting, duration
  • Clear speech
  • Lexical frequency
  • Second mention reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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