February 19, 2014

What are the effects of speaking deeper?

In answer to my question of why do the voices of Slavic speakers tend to sound deeper, commenter Bill says:
It's because Slavic vowels are voiced lower in the larynx. Ever heard a Slavic language spoken with a nasal voice? Didn't think so.

What are the cultural effects of a predilection for speaking in a deeper tone?

I don't really like high-pitched music, preferring the cello to the violin and the beginning to the end of "Stairway to Heaven." But, Western audiences find it exciting and brilliant. You can play faster up higher. Can you talk faster at a higher pitch, too? Do the French speak in a nasally tone to have a higher bandwidth?
  

42 comments:

San Franciscan non-monk said...

> Ever heard a Slavic language
> spoken with a nasal voice?

Uh, yeah. Haven't you? That's one of the quirks of Slavic languages - they use a nasally tone when they want to seem playful or casual or something.

Anonymous said...

women like it

Anonymous said...

Being seen as more manly, and therefore more attractive to women.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand listening to the Irish with my American English ear: everything is a question.

Anonymous said...

http://takimag.com/article/tightening_the_noose_around_iran_taki/print#axzz2tpugIdkl

"The Feiths, Kristols, Perles, Kagans, Wolfowitzes, Abramses, and Pipeses of this world pulled an excellent con on George W."

Reagan set a dangerous template for Republican presidents. As a man of broad ideas but detachment from detailed affairs that he left to the experts, the Reagan model became something the neocons could cleverly exploit.

Put a titular populist-seeming figure in the White Office and have him just approve of whatever the experts push.

Anonymous said...

The two sexiest-sounding European languages are French and Portuguese. They happen to be the most nasal languages on the continent. I wonder if there are other examples of this outside of Europe.

jody said...

don't most serious music fans prefer cello?

Anonymous said...

Most of the people who spoke Slavic languages w/ nasal voices came over here about 100 years ago.

(Rimshot!)

Fisk Ellington Rutledge III said...

Who knows why people speak the way they do. I've heard that a lot of Europeans hear American English and it seems to them to sound like the Scandinavian languages.

Mark Twain once described the southern accents as the result of several classes and races all trying to sound like each other and failing.

Isolated populations will try to sound like the most awesome people in their group. A lot of this has no purpose or significance. It's just an accident.

Peter the Shark said...

It's because Slavic vowels are voiced lower in the larynx. Ever heard a Slavic language spoken with a nasal voice? Didn't think so.

This is nonsense. Russian women speak at a higher pitch than Americans - the modern (annoying) Moscow accent that Russian "hip hop" singers and "cool kids" affect is actually very nasal. Poles (who are Slavs) generally speak at a higher pitch than Americans, and Polish is also a very nasal language. Pitch is cultural or genetic, but has nothing to do with the structure of the language.

Anonymous said...

What is the effect of speaking in a higher pitch?

I see a lot of Indian and Asian men with fast paced high pitched accents.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take minus the Slav issue.

American men put on deep voices with a gravel edge/vocal fry.
I don't know why y'all do it but you do.
I'm Australian and we all talk like meth squirrels compared to you micro-penis frauds.

Anonymous said...

I am a native speaker of both Danish and English. I have a noticablely lower pitch when speaking Danish and have a more relaxed throat which helps produce the very particular Danish vowel sounds. My Jutland accent seems to be pitched lower than the faster-spoken Copenhagen accent. (None of this sounds anything like Swedish - they say we speak with 'a potato in our mouths'.)

Mike said...

Steve- this doesn't answer your question, but may be somewhat applicable:

http://www.acoustics.org/press/165th/2pMU3_Suwangbutra.html

In short, skull shape seems to influence musical preference. Arguably, one reason we 'grow out of' liking really high-pitched kids' music is our skulls get bigger, and it literally doesn't resonate as well.

Is that really true? Who knows. It looks like they've found something interesting though.

Anonymous said...

In short, skull shape seems to influence musical preference. Arguably, one reason we 'grow out of' liking really high-pitched kids' music is our skulls get bigger, and it literally doesn't resonate as well.

And our ability to hear the higher frequencies fades with age, starting in childhood.

Anonymous said...

Somebody else from Devo just died.

Anonymous said...

The Japs have a high rate of syllables per minute, they have to given the restrictions on syllables which can be realized in their language.

Yet men there tend to put on deeper pitches (and women higher pitches) than Americans, as per linguistic studies.

Foreign Expert said...

I don't think "voicing lower in the larynx" makes a sound lower in pitch. In fact, vowels are differentiated by jaw height (hi-low) and tongue position (front-back) and several other features (lip-rounding, tense-laxness, etc). Pitch and degree of nasalization are cultural traits. It is possible to speak/sing English quite nasally or not. Margaret Thatcher learned to lower her pitch. You can too.

Steve Sailer said...

I think West Africans tend to be like the Japanese: the women try to speak higher and the men try to speak lower. It seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do, but you don't hear about it much in America.

Anonymous said...

I recall an anecdote told by an actress about Joan Crawford.
She said she was a contract player at the studio, getting half-decent parts, and not that many. She met Joan at a party, and after conversing for awhile, Joan said, "if you dropped your voice one octave, I guarantee you, you'd get a lot more work." She went to a vocal coach Joan recommended, and dropped her voice an octave. She got a ton of work!

Anonymous said...

Polish and French are unique among the European languages in that both employ a number of nasal sounds like the vowels in the French words '(le) chien' or 'dans.' Similar sounds in Polish are indicated using diacritical marks, for example 'bak' (bumblebee) or 'lek' (fear). The overall effect is that in both French and Polish the pitch is more variable

Naturalist said...

If you try to speak in a deeper voice than is 'natural' for you, you have a chance of developing polyps on the vocal cords.

Men that have voices that are higher than they would like can try to speak bit slower instead.

jgress said...

I haven't been able to find any studies on whether different languages are spoken at different pitch registers (once you control for sexual and individual differences, of course), so I'm not sure whether there is anything more substantial to your impression. Does Bill know of any sources for his assertion that Slavic languages have lower average pitches?

Prof. Woland said...

Russian words are definitely longer and have more syllables than than the equivalent words in English. That means they have to cram more noise into the same time to communicate at the same speed. Also, a lot more words end with a vowel as in Latin which makes it sound much more staccato.

Prof. Woland said...

Another observation, Russian is an assumptive language in no small part, something you tend to see with languages where the population does not have writing. That means to communicate you really have to be paying attention and looking at them while speaking. That is a problem for my Russian wife because she will often blurt out an idea mid sentence about something she is reading or watching which makes it hard to pick up. Of course, I am generally not paying attention so I will have to stop her and ask her to back up. Russian does not have the word THE.

Anonymous said...

the modern (annoying) Moscow accent that Russian "hip hop" singers and "cool kids" affect is actually very nasal.

Peter the Shark, can you please post some YouTube clips with examples of this? I'm curious.

Volksverhetzer said...

"I am a native speaker of both Danish and English. I have a noticablely lower pitch when speaking Danish and have a more relaxed throat which helps produce the very particular Danish vowel sounds."

That is not very strange at all, if you knew that "stød" is the same as "vocal rasp", and is used to differentiate between similar words, just like Swedish and Norwegian use difference in pitch accent for the same words and purpose.

What is funny, is that English being the youngest Scandinavian language, seems to develop both pitch accents and "stød", except they call it "upspeak" and "vocal fry", and don't seem to understand that it is done to increase the probability that the listener understands what you mean.

Rohan Swee said...

I'm confused. French is nasally, but I don't associate that with high pitch - French doesn't strike me as a high-ptiched language, quite the contrary. And I'm not buying that French or Slavic women speak at a higher pitch than anglophone women. They have lovely, low, throaty voices.

Are the commenters here perhaps confusing pitch and volume? It's the voices of anglophone women (at least, in America) that seem to be becoming higher-pitched and more juvenile by the decade. Only in America is it common to hear middle-aged women who you'd swear were 15-year-olds if all you heard were their voices. Blech. (Maybe it's a global modern trend, and you guys are right that even modern Moscow girls have taken to squealing, alas.)

But there does seem to be a pitch and volume confusion here. The voices of anglophone women are so often so unpleasant because they speak very loudly in very high-pitched voices, the worst possible combination. Japanese women go in for the baby-girl voices, but they speak very softly, so it sounds pretty. But imo they don't sound as nice as French of Russian or Brazilian women, who speak both softly and at lower pitch.

The same thing (rising pitch) seems to be happening to male voices, for that matter. What's up with that? Estrogens in the water? Pajama Boy syndrome? Whatever it is, it's becoming really grating.

Volksverhetzer said...

"American men put on deep voices with a gravel edge/vocal fry.
I don't know why y'all do it but you do.
I'm Australian and we all talk like meth squirrels compared to you micro-penis frauds."

It is two different solutions to the same problem, and if English splits like Danish and Norwegian, you can end up with the areas that goes for vocal fry, starts to sound more Danish, while other areas that go for differences in word melody, will sound more Norwegian/Swedish.

If I have understood correctly, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of the British Isles already have pitch accents, although it is still misdiagnosed as "upspeak".

pat said...

The Welsh infantryman in "Zulu" on hearing the chanting of the surrounding Zulu remarks "They have a wonderful bass section but they are short on top tenors".

True, only too true.

Black men have lower pitched voices and it isn't Ebonics. They have lower voices when speaking standard English. Rushton cites a 1982 Hudson and Holbrook study that gives the fundamental vocal frequencies of whites as 117 Hz and that of blacks as 110 Hz. A musical semitone on a chromatic scale is just slightly less than 6% (the twelfth root of 2) so blacks (male and females) speak about a half note lower than whites. Blacks speak at about an 'A' while whites speak at about a 'B Flat'.

This is why James Earl Jones and Dennis Haysbert are such big vocal stars on TV.

You claim the Slavic connection connection with lower voices is linguistic. I don't think so.

There certainly is a connection between low voices and Slavic ancestry but I think it's genetic not linguistic. The world of opera has long had basses like Ukrainians Paul Plishka and Alexander Kipnis, and Bulgarians like Boris Christof and Nicolai Ghiaurov. There are also many Russian contra basses like Vladimir Miller who are Slavic.

But this is probably not linguistic but rather a genetic cline. Go to Italy and hear an opera and if you are used to only American choruses it sounds as if you had your ear wax removed. The choruses are filled with real tenors. You can hear the high line the way you never hear it in an American opera house. Go north however into Germany and the top tenors are gone. It's hard to generalize from soloists because all peoples have at least a few representatives across the vocal spectrum, but choruses give you a better indication of the average national vocal pitch.

Slavs IMHO are low voiced simply because they are northern people like the Finns who produced the great basses Marti Talvela and Matti Salminen but never a significant tenor. You can even catch some of this effect in the operas of Rossini. He wrote many operas for Naples that had as many as five tenor parts while only having one bass role (Armida is the obvious example). But the operas he wrote for Rome and other more northerly cities reversed that pattern, Barber and Cenerentola have only one tenor and three basses.

Albertosaurus

Veracitor said...

Hi Steve,

You've been interested in voice-pitch for a while, no?

You discussed a related question with 2 Blowhards a decade ago.

And I can't search up a link right now, but I remember you once discussed how women consider men with deeper voices more attractive (as potential mates).

BurplesonAFB said...

"You think the Welsh can't do better than that?"

Anecdotally, wouldn't you say that men who grew up in Old South are most likely to have deep voices? They also speak extremely, painfully slowly. This is coming from someone whose exposure to the south is through media, and Frank Underwood is my main example. Yes, I have one singular datum, but it's isteve so that's how we roll here.

Anonymous said...

Over at the NoFap subreddit, lots of talk among the guys about getting deeper voices after giving up porn and the hand for awhile. It works.

Bill said...

Pitch is cultural or genetic, but has nothing to do with the structure of the language.

-Peter the Shark


That is just plain wrong. I speak Chinese, and pitch has an enormous amount to do with "the structure of the language."

Is linguistics really such an exotic discipline that people are this ignorant about it?

Anonymous said...

I think West Africans tend to be like the Japanese: the women try to speak higher and the men try to speak lower.

Just don't take the first clause of this sentence out of context. :)

Anonymous said...

A deeper voice is an advantage in life, proving again that life is pretty much ridiculous. In that vain, I have to say that though Easy Listening is not generally my favorite genre, this is my favorite midlife crisis themed video sung by an extremely high pitched male, Mike Milosh. Some guys can make a career out of being high pitched without coming across as gay e.g.Smokey Robinson and Bryan Ferry.

Newt Gingrich is a terrific high pitched speaker, even if you hate him.

Edward Cefala said...

The resonators are key but smaller nostrils are going to influence this at least a bit too. I truly believe that variety is the spice of life though. It's only my preference but if too many are talking deep it all becomes a rumble. I think control of range, pattern of rising/falling and glisando can be learned, thank Jiminy Cricket.

Anonymous said...

There is a Ken Jeong Korean vs. Vietnamese version of this discussion - Vietnamese is Korean on weed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi6fX2Qbvvo

As a side note, Jeong's wife was a physician as was he. I just realized that America is now a country where two doctors work so that one of them can aspire to become a comedian.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman with a low, resonant voice (and Scandinavian cheekbones), strong solar plexus, and large lungs/ribcage.

I've always attracted big strong men with low voices. The little tweety reedy types, not so much.

In the decades of being a manager in various settings, I found I had to make my voice higher pitched and shriller to be heard by women colleagues. If I spoke quietly, calmly, in my own pitch, they accused me of being "domineering," even though to my ear, it's shrill shrieking that sounds that way.

The thing that has driven me insane ever since the movie /Airplane!/--the character played by Julie Hagerty--is the ongoing adoption by mature women of high pitched breathy baby girl voices. I'm not sure when women in mass culture went from sounding like Dietrich, Hepburn, and Bacall to sounding like smoke alarms who'd mated with ferrets...but there you have it.

Anonymous said...

I speak both Spanish and German, and my pitch is higher when I speak in Spanish. Also, Germans (and many others) always complain that Spanish speakers speak way too fast.

Pochinko said...

Its easier to speak slow and deep when you have a head full of vodka than it is to speak in a high fast voice. So naturally this evolved there.

Then again, the opposite may be true for women with a head full of wine. So maybe that explains why a slow deep voice evolved in the Slavic countries, and a high fast voice in France.

Chester Allen said...

"I think West Africans tend to be like the Japanese: the women try to speak higher and the men try to speak lower. It seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do, but you don't hear about it much in America."

- I've noticed that peoples' voices can change a bit depending on who they are around. Guys tend to talk a little deeper around attractive women, and women will talk a bit higher, more bubbly around frat boys.