Francine Dove Hawkins
Grace H. Yeni-Komshian
Dept. of Hear. and Speech Sci., Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
This study was conducted to examine the influence of speaker, listener, vowel type, and speech sample length variations on ethnic identification. The speakers (equal number of black/white/male/female) provided test materials that consisted of isolated vowels, words, and sentences. The stimuli were also differentiated by vowel type: /ae/ and /i/. The listeners (n=180) were divided equally by ethnicity and gender. The results revealed that listeners identified speakers' ethnicity with overall accuracy rates greater than chance (64% correct). Accuracy rates for /ae/ and /i/ stimuli were similar. In addition, listener variables, such as ethnicity, gender, and site of residence, did not consistently affect ethnic identification responses. Ethnic identification was most accurate for black male and white female speakers. For these two speaker groups only, accuracy rates increased consistently from vowel to word or sentence stimuli. An acoustic analysis of some of the speech samples was performed in which the fundamental frequency (F0) was measured. The findings of this analysis were consistent with the interpretation that listeners may be using the speaker's F0 in the ethnic identification process.