Breathiness as a Feminine Voice Characteristic: A Perceptual Approach
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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