voice and race recognition

john at research.haifa.ac.il john at research.haifa.ac.il
Thu Dec 30 18:43:39 UTC 2010

I don't know of anything about vowels which is specifically Black in an
American context--to my knowledge there's no difference between
AAVE vowels and a particular southern White dialect (non-rhotic and without /ay/
'monophthongization' before voiced sounds, generally associated with
more coastal dialects and more affluent Whites). Distinctiveness in BEV
is much more associated with morphology and consonants.

Quoting "Moore, John" <moorej at ucsd.edu>:

> I was an external member on a music qualifying exam many years ago, where the
> proposal was to investigate exactly this.  The student described it as a
> distinctive 'timber'.  However, in the exam it because clear that neither
> she, nor anyone else on the committee were able to understand that
> phonological features of different speech varieties and timber might be
> different things (it surprised me as 'timber' has a clear technical meaning
> in music).  Try as I might, I couldn't get the idea across that, for example,
>  AAVE vowel quality, was different from 'timber', in the musical sense
> (although in the phonetic sense it does all come down to formants, but that
> was far beyond that discussion).  After the qualifying exam I was replaced
> with someone with more background in race theory.
> John
> ________________________________________
> On the other hand, Andre Cooper, who's a phonetician and Black and a big
> opera
> fan, once told me that no matter how much Black woman are trained as opera
> singers, there's always something distinctive about their voice quality
> (although obviously we're dealing with a pretty small sample here).

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