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Speaker-sex discrimination for voiced and whispered vowels at short durations

Smith, David R.R.


Dr David Smith
Senior Lecturer, Director of Studies for Psychology


Whispered vowels, produced with no vocal fold vibration, lack the periodic temporal fine structure which in voiced vowels underlies the perceptual attribute of pitch (a salient auditory cue to speaker sex). Voiced vowels possess no temporal fine structure at very short durations (below two glottal cycles). The prediction was that speaker-sex discrimination performance for whispered and voiced vowels would be similar for very short durations but, as stimulus duration increases, voiced vowel performance would improve relative to whispered vowel performance as pitch information becomes available. This pattern of results was shown for women’s but not for men’s voices. A whispered vowel needs to have a duration three times longer than a voiced vowel before listeners can reliably tell whether it’s spoken by a man or woman (∼30 ms vs. ∼10 ms). Listeners were half as sensitive to information about speaker-sex when it is carried by whispered compared with voiced vowels.


Smith, D. R. (2016). Speaker-sex discrimination for voiced and whispered vowels at short durations. i-Perception, 7(5),

Online Publication Date Oct 3, 2016
Publication Date 2016-10
Deposit Date Oct 10, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal i-Perception
Print ISSN 2041-6695
Electronic ISSN 2041-6695
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 5
Article Number 2041669516671320
Keywords Speaker-sex discrimination; Speech; Voiced; Whispered; Duration; Vocal-tract length; Pitch
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Additional Information Copy of article first published in: i-Perception, 2016, v.7 issue 5


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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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