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WPP, No. 108: Comparison of speaking fundamental frequency in English and Mandarin

  • Author(s): Keating, Patricia
  • Kuo, Grace
  • et al.
Abstract

To determine if the speaking fundamental frequency (F0) profiles of English and Mandarin differ, a variety of voice samples from male and female speakers were compared. Two methods of pitchtracking were also compared. Differences in the F0 data from the two methods were small, except that the lowest creaky F0 values were better detected manually. The F0 profiles of English vs. Mandarin speakers were sometimes found to differ, but these differences depended on the particular speech samples being compared. Most notably, the physiological F0 ranges of the speakers, determined from tone sweeps, did not differ between the two languages, indicating that the English and Mandarin speakers’ voices are comparable. Their use of voice pitch in single-word utterances was, however, quite different, with the Mandarin speakers having higher maximums and means, and larger ranges, even when only the Mandarin high falling tone was compared with English. In contrast, for a prose passage, the two languages were more similar, differing only in the mean F0, Mandarin again being higher. The study thus contributes to the growing literature showing that languages can differ in their F0 profile, but highlights the fact that the choice of speech materials to compare can be critical.

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