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The acoustic influence of human voice on phonaesthetical perception of a foreign language

Žiga Bogataj (2021) The acoustic influence of human voice on phonaesthetical perception of a foreign language. MSc thesis.

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    The main entities of a spoken language are language and voice, which are entangled with each other. In our daily life, we do not give it much thought because we are normally more interested in the meaning of the message. Nonetheless, acoustic properties of the voice might influence our phonaesthetical perception of a language. Although phonaesthetics were defined two decades ago, there has not been a lot of research of phonaesthetical perception. This phenomenon has been mainly researched from the sociolinguistic and the psycholinguistic points of view, however, the acoustic perspective has been neglected. In this thesis, the aim was to replicate the recent findings for the phonaesthetical perception of languages on a different sample of participants and to examine this phenomenon through the lens of acoustics. The hypotheses were that languages of the same language family group as the participants’ mother tongue will be phonaesthetically evaluated lower than languages of other language family groups. Furthermore, there will be no differences between female and male participants in the phonaesthetical perception of foreign languages. Finally, the average fundamental frequency in voice and its standard deviation will affect phonaesthetical perception. This study was conducted on 60 Slovenian participants, equalized by gender. Audio recordings of the fable “The North Wind and the Sun” in 16 different European languages were used as stimuli, where each language was represented with two different female voices. These recordings were used for the extraction of acoustic parameters (average fundamental frequency, standard deviation of fundamental frequency, event density, harmonic-percussive ratio, inharmonicity, spectral centroid, 2–4 kHz frequency band energy). Likert scales (9-level) were used for the evaluation of phonaesthetical components (beauty, culture, eroticism, orderliness, softness) in a foreign language, self-perceived language familiarity, and voice pleasantness. The task was implemented into an online platform and participants had to use an audio output device. The stimuli were presented in random order, where for each stimulus, participants were first instructed to focus on the language and give their evaluation for perception of beauty, culture, eroticism, orderliness, and softness in that language. Furthermore, they had to evaluate their self-perceived familiarity with that language. Next, they listened to the same stimulus again and were instructed to focus on the voice, for which they had to evaluate how pleasant it sounded. The results showed that the phonaesthetical perception of specific language-family groups mostly differs from one language family group to another, where the Slavic language family group was evaluated lower than the Romance languagefamily group and higher than the Finno-Ugric & Baltic language family group for all phonaesthetical components, whereas the differences between the Slavic and the Germanic language family group were not uniform. Moreover, the differences in phonaesthetical perception between individual languages of specific language-family groups were even more scattered. Language familiarity had an effect on the perception of beauty, culture, and orderliness in a language. In general, a significant difference between female and male participants was found for the perception of eroticism in favor of men. Further segregations showed they differed in the perception of this phonaestetical component for Slavic and Finno-Ugric & Baltic language family groups and for French, Czech, Polish, Russian, and Estonian as individual languages. The acoustic parameters that influenced phonaesthetical perception the most were harmonic-percussive ratio, inharmonicity, and the standard deviation of the fundamental frequency. Furthermore, harmonic-percussive ratio was also the most influential acoustic parameter for the perception of voice pleasantness. It seems that alongside societal and universal phonetic factors, language familiarity and voice also have an effect on the phonaesthetical perception of a foreign language. However, voice seems to be a more influential factor in this regard.

    Item Type: Thesis (MSc thesis)
    Keywords: acoustic parameters, foreign language, language familiarity, phonaesthetical perception, voice
    Number of Pages: 60
    Language of Content: English
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    izr. prof. mag.. Susanne Maria ReitererMentor
    prof. dr. Jörg MühlhansComentor
    Link to COBISS: https://plus.si.cobiss.net/opac7/bib/peflj/90781699
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 7064
    Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2021 13:39
    Last Modified: 23 Dec 2021 13:39
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/7064

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