Do speakers show different F0 when they speak in different languages? The case of English, French and German.

Author(s): Sandra Schwab and Jean-Philippe Goldman


Based on the facts that the voice quality that allows the recognition of a speaker is characterized, among other features, by his/her fundamental frequency (F0) and that F0 may differ across languages, we investigated, in the present research, whether speakers show different F0 when they speak in two different languages. To do this, we carried out a study with a within-speaker design, in which long-term distributional (LTD) F0 level and span measures were examined in early or late bilingual speakers of English and French, of English and German, and of French and German. The results are the following: English-French speakers presented a lower F0 in English than in French. Along the same line, English-German speakers showed a lower F0 in English than in German. Moreover, they showed more variability in English than in German, especially when English was the speakers' mother tongue. Finally, French-German showed no differences in F0 level or span between both languages. These findings, which are partially in agreement with previous studies, not only highlight the advantage of using a within-speaker design in order to neutralize individual differences, but they also support the idea that the language spoken by the speaker is important for his/her identification.