Trends in presidential speaking rate

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In a comment on "Political Sound and Silence II", 5/30/2017, and referencing "Trends in presidential pitch II", 5/21/2017, unekdoud asked

Are there are any trends over the Weekly Addresses for these measures? In particular, is speech duration or speech % correlated with median pitch?

There's certainly a relationship (r=0.55) between speaking rate (words per minute counting speech regions only) and median f0, in the Weekly Addresses for Donald Trump's first few months as president:

In other words, across the first few months of Weekly Addresses, President Trump is tending to talk somewhat faster as well as using a higher range of pitches.

This might simply reflect a choice to use more words per pause group — pre-pausal lengthening would thus be amortized over a large number of words, and similarly for phrase-final lowering. Or perhaps the distribution of words per pause group is stable, with the speaking rate and pitch range increasing for phrases of a given length. Or both. I'll test these hypothesis another morning.

For measures such as the percentage of speech as opposed to silence, there's no clear evolution over time in this material, though I don't have time this morning to lay out all the details.

[It's lucky that median f0 in Hz and speaking rate in words per minute turn out to have the same general range of numerical values, at least in this case, so that I can avoid more complicated ways of plotting the two sequences on the same graph…]


1 Comment

  1. Robbie said,

    June 1, 2017 @ 6:44 am

    Have the data for the various presidents' speaking rate/pitch been compared to:
    a) the average American speaking rate/pitch for the same time period?
    b) the average rate/pitch for the parts of the country the presidents are from?

    It's interesting to compare the different presidents, but doesn't mean much unless we know whether any particular president has an unusual speech pattern for his time or place.

    [(myl) The point here is not to compare President Trump to others, but rather to compare him to himself over time.

    As it happens, his reading rate is on the slow side, both for and for (for example) audiobook readers, and his pitch range is on the high side for male politicians and male text reading in general. But the point of this post would remain the same if his speaking rate were unusually high and his pitch range unusually low.]

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