ASA 124th Meeting New Orleans 1992 October

1aSP8. Perception of ethnic identity: The role of F0.

Grace H. Yeni-Komshian

Francine Dove Hawkins

Dept. of Hear. and Speech Sci., Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

This study was conducted to examine the perceptual consequences of specific modifications in the F0 of speech samples. To this end, isolated /ae/ vowels from two black and two white speakers were synthesized at nine F0s, creating a continuum ranging from an F0 of 93 Hz to an F0 of 147 Hz. These synthesized speech stimuli were judged for ethnicity by 180 listeners. The listeners were divided equally by ethnicity, gender, and site of residence. The results showed that, for all speakers, as the F0 of the speech sample decreased, the number of ``black'' responses increased significantly; conversely, as the F0 increased, the number of ``black'' responses decreased. These findings indicate that modifications in the F0 of speech produce a significant and predictable shift in ethnic identification responses. Listener variables, such as ethnicity, gender, and site of residence, did not show consistent effects. The results also showed that the effect of F0 modifications, although statistically significant, was not of equal magnitude across speakers. These findings may be used to argue that mental stereotypes of the way different ethnic groups should sound, rather than physiological differences in their vocal tracts, serve as the basis for perceived differences in ethnicity. [Work supported by NICHD Contract No. N01-HD-5-2910.]