Degree of Breathiness in a Synthesized Voice Signal as it Differentiates Masculine versus Feminine Voices

Susanna Whitling, Henry M. Botzum, Miriam R. van Mersbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Most studies determining speakers’ perceived gender as binarily female or male are reliant on F0 perception, although other vocal parameters may also contribute to the perception of gender. The current study focused on the impact of breathiness on the perception of speakers’ gender as a biological variable (feminine or masculine). Methods: n = 31 normal hearing, native English speakers, 18 female, 13 male, mean age 23 (SD = 3.54), were auditorily and visually trained in and then took part in a categorical perception task. A continuum of nine samples of the word “hello”, was created in an airway modulation model of speech and voice production. Resting vocal fold length, resting vocal fold thickness, F0, and vocal tract length were fixed. Glottal width at the vocal process, posterior glottal gap, and bronchial pressure were continually modified for all stimuli. Each stimulus was randomly presented 30 times within each of the five blocks (150 presentations in total). Participants rated stimuli as binarily female or male. Results: Showed a sigmoidal shift in breathiness along the continuum between perceived feminine or masculine voicing. This shift was evident at stimuli four and five, indicating a nonlinear, discrete perception of breathiness among participants. Response times were also significantly slower in these two stimuli, suggesting a categorical perception of breathiness among participants. Conclusion: Breathiness created by the change in glottal width of at least 0.21 cm may influence the perception of a speaker's perceived gender.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Voice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

Free keywords

  • Breathiness
  • Feminine versus masculine voice
  • Synthetic voice
  • Voice perception


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