The social meaning of tempo

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Speech tempo can be deployed consciously to achieve particular effects, but it can also send cues to listeners that the speaker didn’t intend to convey. What this means for us is that tempo is a stylistic resource, expressive for both speakers and listeners— creating expectations about the speaker and their attitude toward a situation and audience. These expressions, however, don’t happen in a vacuum. The use of tempo reflects and constructs various ideologies, allowing tempo to signal emotional state, occupation, geographical origin, ethnic identification, and more.