Mannheim, Germany

Rock the Rhythm and Croon the Melody: The Music of Speech

when 12 June 2019 - 6 July 2019
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 6 EC
fee EUR 250

Poetry, music, public oratory and everyday conversation share two powerful modes of communication: rhythms and melodies. As a rule speakers and hearers are only aware of details of rhythm and melody, the prosody of speech, when they hear something unexpected: a hesitation, misplaced accentuation, a foreign accent, stuttering. Informal ‘folk linguistic’ characterisations of speech prosody and voice quality capture some of the properties of rhythms, melodies and voice type, but not very precisely: ‘monotonous’, ‘sing-song’, ‘shouting’, ‘whispering’, ‘high-pitched’, ‘low-pitched’, ‘squeaky’, ‘rumbling’, ‘bass’, ‘tenor’, ‘alto’, ‘soprano’, ‘falsetto’, ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ in terms of the sounds of voices, and ‘harsh’, ‘gentle’, ‘kindly’, ‘sexy’, ‘aggressive’, ‘angry’ ‘breathless’, ‘boring’ or ‘excited’ in terms of their effects on the listener.

The main objective of the course is to increase awareness of speech prosody and to impart analytic skills regarding speech prosody in different situations and different languages, with practical sessions in which the functions, patterns and sound properties of samples of speech in Chinese, selected West African languages and English will be analysed, with occasional samples of the languages of participants. There will be excursions into the rhythms and melodies of poetry and song, and speculations about the evolution of speech prosody.

Course leader

Prof. Dafyd Gibbon

Target group

Undergaduate Students

Fee info

EUR 250: This course forms part of the Mannheim Summer School 2019. The registration fee of 250€ includes all coursework (up to two courses of the program), a Welcome Reception, a welcome package, two excursions, evening leisure activities, a Farewell BBQ, transcript of records and certificate as well as individual support in finding accomodation.


The Mannheim Summer School is strongly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We are therefore able to keep registration cost low for every participant and do not offer individual scholarships.