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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 9, 2021

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

  • Frank Seifart ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Jan Strunk ORCID logo , Swintha Danielsen , Iren Hartmann , Brigitte Pakendorf , Søren Wichmann , Alena Witzlack-Makarevich ORCID logo , Nikolaus P. Himmelmann ORCID logo and Balthasar Bickel
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


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.

Corresponding author: Frank Seifart, Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin, Germany; Dynamique Du Langage (CNRS & Université de Lyon), Lyon, France; and University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, E-mail:

Funding source: Volkswagen Foundation

Award Identifier / Grant number: 89 550

Funding source: LabEx ASLAN

Award Identifier / Grant number: ANR-10-LABX-0081

Award Identifier / Grant number: ANR-11-IDEX-0007

Funding source: Russian Government


The research of FS and JS was supported by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation’s Dokumentation Bedrohter Sprachen (DoBeS) program (89 550). FS and BP are grateful to the LABEX ASLAN (ANR-10-LABX-0081) of Université de Lyon for its financial support within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) of the French government operated by the National Research Agency (ANR). SW’s research was supported by JPICH/NWO, a subsidy of the Russian Government to support the Programme of Competitive Development of Kazan Federal University, and a major project from National Social Science Fund of China (no. 19ZDA300). We are grateful for helpful comments from Susanne Fuchs, Oksana Rasskazova, Colleen O’Brien, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Supplementary material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2019-11-27
Accepted: 2020-04-02
Published Online: 2021-02-09

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