Harvard Sentences.

The Harvard Sentences are a set of phonetically balanced sentences used for testing audio circuits. If you’ve ever wanted to hear them spoken aloud, the Open Speech Repository has you covered: American English, British English. They also have files in Mandarin, French, and Hindi. (Thanks, Trevor!)


  1. I’m imagining each list on a page by itself, without the numerals or punctuation, printed in a fancy typeface like Centaur, with big margins, on nice paper. They’d be bound together as Harvard Sentences, or perhaps harvard sentences. Why not?

  2. And reviewed as poetry!

  3. [Yes, a year-old thread. But I just found this.]

    @Y, here you go: One per card, in a variety of typefaces.

    Source: http://gizmodo.com/the-harvard-sentences-secretly-shaped-the-development-1689793568

    My favorite paragraph: “Verizon’s baseline engineers, as the job is called, drive thousands of miles a month to test the network quality. Their trucks are outfitted with computers that blurt out a Harvard sentence every 15-30 seconds. “He carved a head from the round block of marble,” the Verizon computer will say. Or: “These days a chicken leg is a rare dish.””

  4. Thank you! Glad I caught it.

    (Hat, the comment RSS feed only gives the most recent 10 comments. If I check it once a day I tend to miss rarely commented-on threads like this one. Is it possible to increase this count?)

  5. Dunno; I”ll ask the man who does.

  6. I second Y’s request!

    ideally we’d be able to select last day, last 3 days, etc.

  7. Trond Engen says

    I usually read through John Cowan’s Commented-On Language Hat Posts page. If I’ve been away for a while I can just read everything since the last thing I read.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Same here.

  9. And so do I, surprisingly.

  10. I find that the intelligibility of the sentences is low without a context, and some combination of words is odd and unexpected. I misheard one line in the demo used by the Opus audio codec: “It’s easy to tell the debt of a whale.” I would probably have understand the words if I knew that someone was approaching a well or that they were carrying a measuring device.

    “Canoe slid against planks.” I’m surprised that the boat came into contact with a solid obstacle. “Hogs were fed garbage”, you wouldn’t normally find words feed and garbage in the same sentence. While considering the possible meaning, I would probably miss the next phrase.

    On the other hand, if one memorizes all the sentences, I imagine they could identify one from the list under noise quite easily.

  11. A canoe might well slide along planks if they constituted a portage-way in muddy soil.

  12. People in the U.S. can hear the the AmE versions of the Harvard Sentences spoken over a phone by calling 1-858-651-5050. I found this out from Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet, a blog with fairly long articles about old but still interesting technologies and other historical things. Not dull at all, of course, and I recommend it to the Hattics who are so minded.

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