An experimental study of emotional speech in Mandarin and English

Author(s): Ting Wang, Yong-Cheol Lee and Qiuwu Ma


This study reports our initial results on whether the use of pitch for expressing emotions differs between Mandarin and English. The production experiment was conducted using five emotions (anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and neutral) by comparing both prosodic cues and phonation cues between Mandarin and English emotional speech. Results demonstrated that within each language, each vocal emotion had specific acoustic patterns. Moreover, Mandarin and English showed different mechanisms of utilizing pitch for encoding emotions. The differences in pitch variation between neutral and other emotions were significantly larger in English than in Mandarin. However, the variations of speech rate and certain phonation cues (e.g., CPP and CQ) were significantly larger in Mandarin than in English. The differences in emotional speech between the two languages may be due to the restriction of pitch variation by the presence of lexical tones in Mandarin. This study reveals an interesting finding that when a certain parameter (e.g., pitch) is restricted in one language, other cues turned out to be strengthened for compensation. Therefore, we posit that the acoustic realizations of emotional speech are multidimensional.