The acoustic and perceptual bases of judgments of women and men's sexual orientation from read speech

Benjamin Munson, Elizabeth C. McDonald, Nancy L. DeBoe, Aubrey R. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations

Abstract

Three experiments examined acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the speech of gay; Lesbian; Bisexual (GLB) and heterosexual people. Experiment 1 examined the acoustic characteristics of single words produced by both men and women who identified as either GLB or heterosexual. The largest differences between GLB and heterosexual women were in the F1 frequency of /ε/ and the F2 frequency of /oυ{phonetic}/. The largest differences between the groups of men were in the F1 frequency of /ε/ and /æ/, and the spectral skewness of the fricative /s/. Experiment 2 showed that listeners' judgments of perceived sexual orientation were related to the acoustic parameters found to differ in Experiment 1: Listeners showed greater sensitivity to differences in men's sexual orientation when listening to words containing low front vowels and than when listening to words containing back vowels. Moreover, Regression analyses showed that judgments of men's sexual orientation were influenced by /s/ skewness, the F1 frequency of low front vowels, and the F2 frequency of back vowels. Judgments of women's sexual orientation were predicted most strongly by the F1 frequency of low front vowels and the F2 frequency of back vowels. Experiment 3 showed that the judgments of perceived sexual orientation collected in Experiment 2 were strongly related to judgments of perceived height and perceived speech clarity made by independent groups of listeners. Taken together, the results provide a more comprehensive picture of the acoustic and perceptual characteristics of GLB speech styles than has been provided by previous research. Moreover, the results of Experiment 3 suggest that listeners' percepts of GLB speech styles may be related to their perception of other speech characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-240
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006

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