voice and race recognition

Claire Bowern anggarrgoon at gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 14:36:50 UTC 2010

There has been considerable research on this topic, though perhaps more
through psychology than linguistics (though I heard about it first at a CLS
meeting in about 2003). Here are two classic papers:

International Journal of Intercultural Relations
Volume 14, Issue 3, 1990, Pages 337-353
Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates'
perceptions of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants
Donald L. Rubin and Kim A. Smith
Department of Speech Communication The University of Georgia, USA

Gill, M. M.  (1994).  Accents and Stereotypes: Their effect on
perceptions of teachers and lecture comprehension.  Journal of Applied
Communication Research, 22, 348-361.

(Putting a search for the title into google scholar and seeing what
papers site these ones also finds a fair amount more.)

Claire Bowern

On 28 December 2010 09:13, <john at research.haifa.ac.il> wrote:

> I'm pretty familiar with sociolinguistic research on Black English (I was a
> student of Bill Labov's) and to my knowledge there have been no
> socio/linguistic studies of this issue relating to Black Americans at
> least. It
> is kind of surprising, I know. One thing that is particularly striking is
> that
> there
> are many Black Americans (e.g. Barack Obama) whose speech has no
> grammatical or
> phonological characteristics of Black English, who apparently do not even
> have
> a natural register of their speech with such features, who are nevertheless
> immediately identifiable as Black to essentially all Americans on the basis
> of
> something in their voice quality. This is not to say that there is
> something
> `racial'/physiological involved, because there are clearly Black Americans
> who
> speak indistinguishably from Whites (I just saw Vanessa Williams on
> Desperate
> Housewives, for example), voice quality and all--but at the same time there
> is
> also something identifiably distinctively Black which is not just grammar
> and
> phonology. Related to this, it seems to be practically impossible for White
> Americans to convincingly mimic the speech of Black Americans, at least to
> the
> extent that Black Americans think that they are actually Black on the basis
> of
> their voice--a project I was working on during the 1980s spent a good deal
> of
> time trying to find such White Americans with absolutely no success, I mean
> not
> a single person.
> John
> Quoting "s.t. bischoff" <bischoff.st at gmail.com>:
> > Hi all,
> >
> > I have been asked to comment on a research proposal in Sociology  that
> > proposes to  determine if "voice-cued cognitive schemata (organized
> > knowledge frameworks) leads to accurate identification of physical
> > appearance and biographical background of a speaker."  The research is
> > couched within larger questions of racism. My task is to determine if
> > the project as outlined is feasible (logistically) not necessarily to
> > comment on the design or research question. In short, participants
> > will be asked to match the voices they hear, reading the same script,
> > with photos. However, I was struck by the fact that there were no
> > references to linguistics or socio-linguistics in the proposal. This
> > is not an area I am familiar with, but thought that there must be a
> > body of literature on this topic within linguistics. Because I am
> > short of time, I just wanted to ask if there has been "significant"
> > research in linguistics in this area, and if so is there is one or two
> > key papers that are "required reading"?
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Shannon
> >
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