Creaky voice

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Sat Jan 1 18:43:12 UTC 2011

I used to do some research at Edinburgh with a colleague of mine, a voice quality expert, on the dialectal component of voice qualities, both phonation type (which creak falls under) and articulatory setting, trying to find constraints on phonemic inventory and sound change driven by one or the other kind of voice quality.  One thing we found that most Americans have at least some degree of creak (as do upper-middle-class Edinburgh speakers).  The degree varies, though. and besides nasality, the label of "Long Island lockjaw" suggests a close jaw articulatory setting on top of everything else, which is definitely not a common American trait   That I do associate with upscale speakers from the East Coast of both sexes--if I try to do an accent typical of the (male) preppies I grew up with in New Jersey--kind of like a rhotic version of ex-governor Tom Kean or William F. Buckley--I automatically increase creak, close my jaw and retract my tongue to add a bit of pharyngealizati!
 on.  I don't do anything with nasality (and I'm quite DEnasal, though that can be perceived as nasal), but offhand, as a hypothesis, this is where the gender divide in upscale New Jersey creakers comes in.  Female speakers have the nasality, males don't.  Both sexes, though, seem to have the pharyngealization as part of the whole VQ complex.   Midwesterners identify this setting as an "affected" voice, though I think there are native speakers with this setting, too.

Paul Johnston
On Jan 1, 2011, at 1:09 PM, David Bowie wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       David Bowie <db.list at PMPKN.NET>
> Organization: Organized? Me?!?
> Subject:      Re: Creaky voice
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From:    Ronald Butters<ronbutters at AOL.COM>
>> If you listen closely, you will note that creaking is a common
>> phenomenon among men, women, teenage boys, and even small parrots.
> As a professional who regularly does acoustic analysis i might shouldn't
> admit this, but i've just been glossing past the term "creaky voice" for
> years now without ever caring to learn what it actually meansňúthat is, i
> could have given you a technical definition in terms of what the vocal
> tract is doing, but i didn't have a connection in my head between that
> and the sound of it.
> So this thread got me to finally make that connection, and so i googled
> lots of stuff on creaky voice, only to find lots and lots of people who
> absolutely hate it. Me, though? I find it utterly unremarkable (in the
> social senseňúprofessionally, it'd be interesting to look into). I just
> thought that's the way people sound when they talk.
> (Now i have to figure out if i have creaky voice or not. Students
> regularly say that i have a "soothing" voice, and given the way non-fans
> of creaky voice characterize it, soothing may be the conceptual opposite.)
> One thing i noticed in my searching, by the way, is that a lot of people
> who loathe creaky voice and were kind enough to provide YouTube clips to
> show what they meant seemed to react most strongly not to creaky voice
> alone, but rather to creaky voice plus a high degree of nasality.
> <snip>
> --
> Very truly yours,
> David Bowie
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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