Beware! Speed check ahead: speech rate in bilinguals speaking different varieties of Spanish

AnneMarie Lebron* & Isabelle Barrière**, PhD

Research has shown that despite the widespread impression of different speech rates across languages, rates of speech tend to be similar cross linguistically (Coupé et al., 2019). Speech rate is the amount of information conveyed through language per unit time. This information can be measured by morpheme, syllable, per word, etc. (Coupé et al., 2011).  A study on speech rate in late L2 speakers has revealed that they  speak more slowly in their L2 than the L1 as they have not had early and continuous exposure to naturally occurring conversational speech like L1 speakers do; only reading tested. (Bradlow, 2021) This study aims to investigate the patterns of similarities and differences between English and Spanish and possible dialectal variations among English-Spanish bilinguals, since Caribbean Spanish is often perceived as being produced at a faster rate than other Spanish varieties. The participants were fluent speakers of Caribbean Spanish and/or Central American Spanish aged 18-33 The speech production tasks included a reading passage, spontaneous conversation, and narrative elicited with storyboard elicited in English and Spanish.    I hypothesize that Spanish-English bilingual adults will demonstrate a faster rate of speech in their L1 compared to L2 due to early and continuous exposure to L1. Spanish-English bilingual adults will demonstrate a slower rate of speech during the storyboard and reading passage compared to spontaneous speech. Spanish-English bilingual adults who speak Caribbean Spanish dialect will perform tasks with a faster rate of speech than their Central American Spanish speaking peers due to the differences in phoneme production and use (Lipski, 1985).               The speech rate was calculated for each speaker and each task, using PRAAT.  The results contribute to a better understanding of speech production in Spanish-English bilinguals and in speakers of different varieties of Spanish.