What is it about?

We investigated how speech naturalness relates to masculinity–femininity and gender identification (accuracy and reaction time) for cisgender male and female speakers as well as transmasculine and transfeminine speakers. We found that perceptual speech naturalness for both transfeminine and transmasculine speakers is strongly associated with gender cues in spontaneous speech. Training to align a speaker’s voice with their gender identity may concurrently improve perceptual speech naturalness.

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Why is it important?

This finding helps clarify what constitutes "natural" sounding speech production from transgender speakers and suggests that targeting speech markers of masculinity and femininity may simultaneously promote natural sounding speech.

Perspectives

These findings support gender cues in speech as a particularly important perceptual feature to listeners. We consider how the perceptual representation of voice gender and naturalness may develop. Future work could explore the perceptual representation of voice gender and naturalness within the gender diverse population. Further, the influence of listener characteristics on perceptual representation of voice gender and naturalness should be explored to clarify whether we can assume an ideal or "average" listener, or if different "populations" of listeners should be considered when modeling speech perception.

Brandon Merritt
Indiana University System

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This page is a summary of: Perceptual Evaluation of Speech Naturalness in Speakers of Varying Gender Identities, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, July 2020, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), DOI: 10.1044/2020_jslhr-19-00337.
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