The influence of perceived sexual orientation on fricative identification

Benjamin Munson, Sarah V. Jefferson, Elizabeth C. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Listeners are more likely to hear a synthetic fricative ambiguous between /s/ and /∫/ as /∫/ if it is appended to a woman's voice than a man's voice [Strand and Johnson, in Natural Language Processing and Speech Technology: Results of the 3rd KONVENS Conference (Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1996), pp. 14-26]. This study expanded on this finding by replicating the result with a much larger group of male and female talkers than had been examined previously, by examining whether phonetic context mediates the influence of talker sex on fricative identification, and by examining whether talkers' perceived sexual orientation influences fricative identification. Stimuli were created by pairing a synthetic nine-step /s/-/∫/ continuum with tokens of /æk/ and /Ip/ taken from productions of shack and ship by 44 talkers whose perceived sexual orientation had been reported previously [Munson et al., J. Phonetics (in press)]. Listeners participated in a series of two-alternative sack-shack and sip-ship identification experiments. Listeners identified more /∫/ tokens for women's voices than for men's voices for both continua. Lesbian/bisexual- sounding women elicited more sack and sip responses than heterosexual-sounding women. No consistent influence of perceived sexual orientation on fricative identification was noted for men's voices. Results suggest that listeners are sensitive to the association between fricatives' center frequencies and perceived sexual orientation in women's voices, but not in men's voices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2427-2437
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume119
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of this research were conducted as part of the second author’s magna cum laude B.A. thesis from the University of Minnesota Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, completed in December 2004. The authors thank Mary R. T. Kennedy for extensive input into that project. This research was supported by a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Scholarship, and Artistry from the University of Minnesota Graduate School. The authors thank Nancy DeBoe and Aubrey White for assistance with parts of this research. The authors gratefully acknowledge Keith Johnson and Elizabeth Strand for providing the Klatt Synthesizer parameter files used to create the fricative continua. This research was presented at the Spring 2005 meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. The authors thank conference participants for their extremely useful feedback about this work. 1

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