Voice quality as a pitch-range indicator

Author(s): Jianjing Kuang, Yixuan Guo and Mark Liberman


Pitch perception plays a central role in processing speech prosody. Since f0 varies from speaker to speaker and from context to context, effective pitch-range normalization is thus important to uncover intended linguistic pitch targets. It has been speculated that voice quality may play a role in pitch-range perception. Our previous study demonstrated that spectral balance indeed effectively affected the perception of pitch height: “tense voice”, implemented as stimuli with spectral balance tilted towards higher frequency, was perceived as higher in pitch. Our previous study used non-speech stimuli, raising the possibility that listeners might not be in the speech mode; this current study therefore replicates the previous experiment using speech stimuli resynthesized with the same range of f0 contours and a similar spectral manipulation, and the same forced-choice pitch classification experiment with four spectral conditions. The results are consistent with our previous experiment: the pitch classification function was significantly shifted by different spectral balances. Listeners generally hear higher pitches when the spectrum includes more high-frequency energy (i.e., tenser phonation). Moreover, there is a salient perceptual bias: When the second peak is tenser, the effect is stronger. These new results further support the hypothesis that voice quality cues are indicators of pitch-range.


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