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How Fast Do People Talk

by Kristin Beck
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How Fast Do People Talk

How Fast Do People Talk

“A new study has revealed that most people talk at about 4-5 syllables per second (1). The same study also showed that we tend to hold our breath while talking and that this is what causes us to slow down. In other words, when we breathe in, we have a tendency to talk slower than normal because we don’t want our lungs full of air. When we exhale, we’re not as concerned with speaking quickly so it’s easier for us to speak faster. This explains why some public speakers can be heard by many on a radio or television broadcast even though they may be standing several feet away from them. It’s called vocal projection.
The human tongue weighs around 6 ounces. It consists of more than 500 muscles (2) and moves back and forth 300 times a minute (3). There are three types of muscle fibers – fast twitch, intermediate, and slow twitch. Slow twitch muscles stay active all day long but only use short bursts of energy. Intermediate muscles are used mainly during movement. They do their job best when there is little energy expenditure. Fast Twitch muscles are activated quickly and then deactivated. They are responsible for quick movements such as running, kicking, swinging arms, etc.
When we move our tongues, we create sound waves. These waves travel through our bodies and eventually reach our ears where they are interpreted by our brain into speech. All our muscles work together to produce sound. Our brain analyzes information from the different parts of our body and sends signals to those areas which control the lips, the tongue, the jaw, etc. In order to understand how these muscles work together, let’s look at the anatomy of the tongue.
Our Tongue
The top part of our tongue is called the tip. It contains no muscle tissue. The sides of the tongue are made up of lingual muscles. The bottom part of the tongue is made up of palatine muscles. We can move our tongue in any direction. However, our ability to move our tongue forward and backward is limited. The front of our tongue is divided into two regions; the anterior fissure and the posterior fissure. The latter allows us to protrude our tongue outwards.
Taste buds are located along the sides of the tongue near the middle area. They detect chemicals in food particles. When we swallow food, its taste bud cells send electrical impulses to the gustatory cortex in the cerebral cortex. The gustatory cortex interprets the messages received from the taste bud cells.
All of the above structures allow us to make sounds. To learn how to make various sounds, read How Does Your Voice Sound?
How Fast Are You Talking?
According to the National Institute of Health, most of us talk at about 4-5 syllables per second (4). That means if you take one second to say “”hello””, you will have said four syllables in your first one second. If you were to count the number of syllables you spoke in ten seconds, you would find that you are saying about 10 syllables in each second. Although the exact numbers vary according to individual differences, the general rule holds true for most people.
There are several factors that determine how fast we speak. First, we have to consider our age. Children generally speak much faster than adults do. For example, children between the ages of 3 and 5 typically talk at about 60 syllables per minute. Adults usually speak at about 120-150 syllables per minute. Second, we should consider the context of the conversation. If someone asks you a question, you might need to pause before answering. Third, we must keep in mind that we often speak in ways that others cannot hear. If we are having a private conversation, we won’t be overheard by others unless we shout. Finally, we should remember that we can speak more than one language. Because English doesn’t contain every possible sound, we may end up slowing down to accommodate the extra sounds.
In conclusion, we can say that the average amount of time it takes for us to talk varies depending on individual differences, age, and context. The next time we watch TV, pay attention to how many words are spoken in each commercial. Then try counting the number of words you hear yourself. Afterward, compare your results with the Nielsen averages.
(1) http://www.livescience.com/8291-how-fast-do-people-talk.html
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_tissue
(3) http://www.healthline.com/library/muscles-of-speech
(4) http://www.nichd.nih.gov/Research/SpeechLab/index.htm”

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