Breathiness as a Feminine Voice Characteristic: A Perceptual Approach

Ghent University Hospital, Gent, Belgium.
Journal of voice: official journal of the Voice Foundation (Impact Factor: 0.94). 08/2008; 23(3):291-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2007.08.002
Source: PubMed


The present study tested suggestions in the literature that vocal breathiness may influence the perception of femininity of the speaker. Two listener experiments were conducted using normal and breathy voice productions by normal females. Panels of students rated femininity of samples from seven biological female speakers, each producing a normal /a/ and a breathy /a/ at similar pitch and intensity. Two listening experiments were enacted. In experiment 1, the 14 samples were presented at random to the judges as if they were from different speakers. Judges rated feminity on a five-point rating scale with 1 (little feminine) and 5 (very feminine) as left and right extremes, respectively. In experiment 2, the normal and breathy samples of each of the seven speakers were presented pair wise and judges were required to indicate which of the two in their opinion sounded most feminine. In all seven participants, the breathy voice samples were judged to be more feminine than the natural voice samples. This was the case when the breathy and natural samples were presented randomly in experiment 1 and when the samples of each speaker were presented pair wise in experiment 2. Results demonstrate that breathiness indeed may contribute to the perception of femininity but replication in a study involving biological males and transgender clients is indicated. It is unclear which degree of breathiness is required or is the most suitable for facilitating the perception of femininity.

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    • "In addition to the previously examined voice features such as f0 and formant spacing, this study integrates several more features that are known to systematically vary by gender, namely voice quality and duration. Voice quality is largely determined by glottal source characteristics [41] and the thinner, less massive vocal folds of women result in overall breathier voices [42] [43] [44]. This aspect of sex specific difference has been largely ignored in the vocal attractiveness literature with a few notable exceptions. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study reports on male and female Californians' ratings of vocal attractiveness for 30 male and 30 female voices reading isolated words. While ratings by both sexes were highly correlated, males generally rated fellow males as less attractive than females did, but both females and males had similar ratings of female voices. Detailed acoustic analyses of multiple parameters followed by principal component analyses on vowel and voice quality measures were conducted. Relevant principal components, along with additional independent acoustic measures, were entered into regression models to assess which acoustic properties predict attractiveness ratings. These models suggest that a constellation of acoustic features which indicate apparent talker size and conformity to community speech norms contribute to perceived vocal attractiveness. These results suggest that judgments of vocal attractiveness are more complex than previously described.
    PLoS ONE 02/2014; 9(2):e88616. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0088616 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "One possible explanation for the observed perceptual differences is that listeners were affected by acoustic factors other than those manipulated (ΔF) or factored out (F0 and its variation) in the present experiments. For example, Klatt & Klatt [34] report that women are perceived to have more breathy voices than men, corresponding to increased F1 bandwidths and decreased F1 amplitude, while breathy voices are judged as more feminine than less-breathy voices [35], suggesting that, at least in adults, breathiness may be a contributing factor to the perception of sex and gender. The potential role of parameters such as F0, F0 variation and breathiness [8], [34], which are sexually dimorphic in adults, but not in pre-pubertal children [13]–[15], in the attribution of sex and gender to children's voices, is an important area for future research. "
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    ABSTRACT: It is usually possible to identify the sex of a pre-pubertal child from their voice, despite the absence of sex differences in fundamental frequency at these ages. While it has been suggested that the overall spacing between formants (formant frequency spacing - ΔF) is a key component of the expression and perception of sex in children's voices, the effect of its continuous variation on sex and gender attribution has not yet been investigated. In the present study we manipulated voice ΔF of eight year olds (two boys and two girls) along continua covering the observed variation of this parameter in pre-pubertal voices, and assessed the effect of this variation on adult ratings of speakers' sex and gender in two separate experiments. In the first experiment (sex identification) adults were asked to categorise the voice as either male or female. The resulting identification function exhibited a gradual slope from male to female voice categories. In the second experiment (gender rating), adults rated the voices on a continuum from "masculine boy" to "feminine girl", gradually decreasing their masculinity ratings as ΔF increased. These results indicate that the role of ΔF in voice gender perception, which has been reported in adult voices, extends to pre-pubertal children's voices: variation in ΔF not only affects the perceived sex, but also the perceived masculinity or femininity of the speaker. We discuss the implications of these observations for the expression and perception of gender in children's voices given the absence of anatomical dimorphism in overall vocal tract length before puberty.
    PLoS ONE 12/2013; 8(12):e81022. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0081022 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "In fact, voice quality is by far the most important attribute, because a breathy voice, whether female or male, was always heard as the most attractive. Also, the fact that for female voice there seems to be a limit to the attractiveness-enhancing effects of raising pitch and dispersing formants (Figure 2a–b) (presumably because they have made the voice too child-like), may explain why breathiness is more important for female than male voice attractiveness [21], [38], and why breathy voice is the most relevant quality for male-to-female transsexuals [38], [39], and probably even why the posterior glottal opening, which leads to a breathy voice, is more consistent in young women than in both young men [23] and elderly women [40]. The importance of breathiness in increasing the attractiveness of female as well as male voice has clear practical implications for areas like speech-based technology, speech and voice counseling, voice surgery and voice therapy for transsexuals. "
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    ABSTRACT: Voice, as a secondary sexual characteristic, is known to affect the perceived attractiveness of human individuals. But the underlying mechanism of vocal attractiveness has remained unclear. Here, we presented human listeners with acoustically altered natural sentences and fully synthetic sentences with systematically manipulated pitch, formants and voice quality based on a principle of body size projection reported for animal calls and emotional human vocal expressions. The results show that male listeners preferred a female voice that signals a small body size, with relatively high pitch, wide formant dispersion and breathy voice, while female listeners preferred a male voice that signals a large body size with low pitch and narrow formant dispersion. Interestingly, however, male vocal attractiveness was also enhanced by breathiness, which presumably softened the aggressiveness associated with a large body size. These results, together with the additional finding that the same vocal dimensions also affect emotion judgment, indicate that humans still employ a vocal interaction strategy used in animal calls despite the development of complex language.
    PLoS ONE 04/2013; 8(4):e62397. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0062397 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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