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), https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669516671320