Study unravels the mystery of why some languages sound faster

09/12/2011 | TIME (subscription required)

An unfamiliar language often sounds like it's moving at light speed, but researchers at Université de Lyon in France wanted to see if they could pinpoint why some languages seem to be spoken faster and why. The study found that languages contain different information densities per syllable and the average number of syllables spoken in some languages is faster, but all the languages convey the same information within the same time span. Thus, each syllable in English and Mandarin conveys a high amount of information -- allowing speakers to move more slowly -- while Spanish and Japanese are less dense and can be spoken faster.

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