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Acoustic and perceptual cues to gender identification : a study of transsexual voice and speech characteristics Wollitzer, Lisa Candice


Few studies address the assessment and management of the voice and speech patterns of Male-to-Female Transsexuals (MTS). The clinician working with this population may therefore be faced with considerable difficulty in planning valid and effective intervention programmes. The purpose of this study was to investigate acoustic and perceptual-acoustic aspects of MTS voice to suggest the most effective and relevant therapy activities for this clinical population. Of particular interest was the anatomical-acoustic mismatch inherent in MTS speech. A further motivation was to investigate the relationship between salient acoustic variables associated with gender identification and their perceptual correlates. Where such relationships can be demonstrated, clinical practice may be simplified by targeting only the most salient features. Subjects were eleven Male-to-Female Transsexuals. Acoustic samples from an equal number of each of anatomical male and female speakers served as a reference. Multidimensional correlates characterizing female voice as distinct from male voice were identified. Social validation was used to determine how “successful” MTS speakers were in achieving a female voice. Results from the anatomical female and male speakers in combination with the information regarding the success of the MTS speakers were then used to suggest the most salient cues to feminine voice. Results suggest the FO average is the dominant characteristic in distinguishing male from female voice. Other distinguishing features include signal-to-noise ratio, Fl and the perceptual judgement of larynx height. Characteristics separating MTS speakers from both anatomical groups were the extent of FO shift relative to habitual speaker FO and antero-posterior tongue posture. Moderate to strong relationships for several pairs of acoustic and perceptual variables were found. The data suggest that speaker FO and pitch are not heavily constrained by physical characteristics of a speaker. For MTS speakers, this means that the individual’s ability to achieve a more feminine voice may not be restricted by an anatomically male vocal tract. Results of correlational analyses suggest that several acoustic variables may have influenced naive listener judgements of masculinity-femininity.

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