What is it about?

We explored if bilinguals use pitch differently in Welsh and in English. We recorded bilinguals reading a range of sentences in Welsh and in English. For each speaker in each language, we measured - in semitones - the difference between maximum and minimum pitch on a sentence, as well as maximum and minimum pitch and mean pitch - in Hertz. Comparisons were made within speakers across languages, separately in male and female speech. Also, we collected language use and background information (e.g., language of exposure in childhood before school, language of primary education, language of secondary education, language used to talk with mother, with father, with a cohabiting partner, attitude to Welsh, etc). We observed clearly different pitch profiles in Welsh and English in female speech (both at individual and group levels). In make speech, however, we did not observe differences in pitch between Welsh and English at the group level. At the individual level, the differences were not consistent (observed only one fourth of male speakers in our experiment). Those males who did exhibit different pitch between Welsh and English reported to use Welsh with their mothers (the language of fathers and partners did not emerge as an important factor) and also reported to have tighter cultural and emotional bonds with the Welsh language.

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Why is it important?

We showed that phonological differences between languages cannot fully explain different use of pitch in languages from bilinguals' inventory. instead, pitch differences can emerge as behavioural differences elicited by changing the language of communication in bilingual environment. These behavioural differences are stemming from extra-linguistic, socio-cultural factors.

Perspectives

Sociolinguistic factors are to be taken into account in any further study of language-specific pitch setting and cross-linguistic differences in pitch profiles in particular or in vocal behaviour in general.

Dr Mikhail Ordin
bcbl

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This page is a summary of: Cross-Linguistic Differences in Bilinguals' Fundamental Frequency Ranges, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, June 2017, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), DOI: 10.1044/2016_jslhr-s-16-0315.
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