Friday, December 01, 2006

The Long and Short of It

A new study just published finds that differences in languages may influence perception of rhythm. Americans presented with a series of tones perceived a different rhythmic pattern than Japanese participants. For English speakers the repeating long and short tones became a short-long rhythmic pattern, while just the opposite held for the Japanese--they heard the pattern as long-short.

Researchers think this is because in Japanese major long words precede smaller modifiers, whereas in English words like a, an, the usually come before the noun (or more important and more stressed word).

How cool is that, the languages we speak alter our perception of rhythm. There is something about science's capacity to amaze me that makes it infinitely appealing. That every day there is some new incredible truth to be learned, some new way of understanding why, why, and how we are. I'm in awe.

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