'pacing' and 'spacing' as predictors of difficulty in speaking and understanding English

R Vanderplank

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    The author argues that while the re-kindling of interest in the real-time factors of syllables or words per minute as a measure of difficulty is to be welcomed, this approach is not wholly satisfactory as it ignores the influence of stress and rhythmic patterning in determining level of difficulty. When a group of advanced-level learners of English was asked to transcribe and mimic Margaret Thatcher being interviewed, it was found that the best indicators of the difficulties they encountered were the 'pacing', that is the tempo at which stressed words were spoken and the 'spacing', that is the proportion of stressed words to the total. The findings also suggested that the notion of 'isochrony' or equal stress timing has a useful psychological reality for advanced-level learners and that rates of 'pacing' may offer a means of grading passages of spoken English more accurately than words or syllables per minute.1 © 1993 Oxford University Press.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-125
    Number of pages9
    JournalELT Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1993


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