Perception of pitch location within a speaker’s F0 range

  • Honorof D
  • Whalen D
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Abstract

Fundamental frequency (F0) is used for many purposes in speech, but its linguistic significance is based on its relation to the speaker's range, not its absolute value. While it may be that listeners can gauge a specific pitch relative to a speaker's range by recognizing it from experience, whether they can do the same for an unfamiliar voice is an open question. The present experiment explored that question. Twenty native speakers of English (10 male, 10 female) produced the vowel /a/ with a spoken (not sung) voice quality at varying pitches within their own ranges. Listeners then judged, without familiarization or context, where each isolated F0 lay within each speaker's range. Correlations were high both for the entire range (0.721) and for the range minus the extremes (0.609). Correlations were somewhat higher when the F0s were related to the range of all the speakers, either separated by sex (0.830) or pooled (0.848), but several factors discussed here may help account for this pattern. Regardless, the present data provide strong support for the hypothesis that listeners are able to locate an F0 reliably within a range without external context or prior exposure to a speaker's voice.

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Authors

  • Douglas N. Honorof

  • D. H. Whalen

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