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Open Access Publications from the University of California

WPP, No. 108: Perception of pitch location within a speaker’s own range: fundamental frequency, voice quality and speaker sex

  • Author(s): Bishop, Jason
  • Keating, Patricia
  • et al.

How are listeners able to identify whether the pitch of a brief isolated sample of an unknown voice is high or low in the overall pitch range of that speaker? Does the speaker’s voice quality convey crucial information about pitch level? Results and statistical models of two experiments that provide answers to these questions are presented. First, listeners rated the pitch levels of samples taken over the full pitch ranges of male and female speakers. The absolute f0 of the samples was by far the most important determinant of listeners’ ratings, but with some effect of the sex of the speaker. Acoustic measures of voice quality had only a very small effect on these ratings. This result suggests that listeners have expectations about f0s for average speakers of each sex, and judge voice samples against such expectations. Second, listeners judged speaker sex for the same speech samples. Again, absolute f0 was the most determinant of listeners’ judgments, but now voice quality measures also played a role. Thus it seems that pitch level judgments depend on voice quality only indirectly, through its information about sex. Absolute f0 is the most important information for deciding both pitch level and speaker sex.

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