During the last two decades a growing body of evidence has shown a close relationship between temporal structure of speech and neural oscillatory activities, especially in the theta and gamma bands. More specifically, several recent models suggest that the neural capacity to track speech dynamics and rhythmic patterns is crucial for speech processing and understanding. However, it is well known that speech periodicity is limited and thus that the story is probably more complex than acknowledged previously.
François Pellegrino presented results of a cross-language comparison of 17 languages in terms of syllabic speech rate, Shannonian information rate and of their shared tendency to very unevenly distribute information among their segments and syllables. These results were discussed in the light of cortical rhythms in the theta band and I introduce a (very) speculative hypothesis stating that there may be a functional distinction between syllables whose role is to convey information and syllables whose role is to provide a rhythmic carrier entraining neural oscillations.
François Pellegrino works at CNRS & Université de Lyon, Dynamics of Language Lab UMR5596