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jeu. 29/11/2018 Séminaire du laboratoire
Reducing language to rhythm: Bora drum communication
Frank Seifart (CNRS-DDL)
10h-11h30
ISH - Espace Marc Bloch

The Bora from the northwest Amazon transmit messages across long distances by emulating tonal and rhythmic patterns of spoken Bora in sequences of drumbeats. But the two phonological tones represented in drummed Bora encode only few lexical contrasts. Therefore, rhythmic patterns play a crucial role: Four rhythmic units are encoded in the length of pauses between beats, which correspond to vowel-to-vowel intervals with different numbers of consonants and vowel lengths. To avoid remaining ambiguities (tonally and rhythmically identical ‘drum homophones’), Bora drummed messages are constructed following fairly strict schemes and various rhythmically distinct markers are applied to distinguish words. Bora drummed speech provides novel evidence for the role of rhythmic structures in the complex puzzle concerning the redundancy and distinctiveness of acoustic features embedded in speech.


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