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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 19, 2009

An Ethological Perspective on Common Cross-Language Utilization of F₀ of Voice

John J. Ohala
From the journal Phonetica


The author suggests that the following seemingly disparate phenomena have an underlying relationship: (a) cross-language similarities in the intonation contours for statements versus questions, (b) cross-cultural similarities in the vocal expression via intonation of attitude and affect, (c) cross-language patterns in the use of tone, vowels, and consonants in ‘sound symbolic’ vocabulary, (d) cross-species use of F₀ in threatening or non threatening vocalizations, (e) cross-cultural and cross-species use of certain facial expressions (involving distinct mouth shape), and (f) the existence of sexual dimorphism in the vocal anatomy of humans (and certain non humans). He argues that all arise due to an innately specified ‘frequency code’, which associates high acoustic frequency with the primary meaning of ‘small vocalizer’ and thus such secondary meanings as ‘subordinate, submissive, non threatening, desirous of the receiver’s goodwill, etc’ and associates with low acoustic frequency the primary meaning of ‘large vocalizer’ and such secondary meanings as ‘dominant, aggressive, threatening, etc’

Received: 1983-12-06
Accepted: 1983-12-14
Published Online: 2009-11-19
Published in Print: 1984-01-01

© 1987 S. Karger AG, Basel