Effects of speaking style on the shape of fundamental frequency distributions

Pablo Arantes


The present study has two main goals. The first is to describe the effects of three speaking styles (spontaneous interview, sentence reading and word list reading) on statistical estimators of fundamental frequency (f0) variability (mean, standard deviation, skewness and kurtosis) in five female and five male speakers of Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Most f0 contours of word reading are bimodal. Analysis of their time-normalized contours suggests this is caused by the time-compressed realization of fast transitions from low to high or high to low tones aligned with stressed syllables. Considering only unimodal distributions, results show that there are no statistically significant effects in the male data for any of the four variability estimators. Effects show up in female data. Spontaneous style has statistically significant higher mean, SD and skewness than read speech. Findings in the previous literature indicate the reverse pattern, though, for languages other than BP. The second goal of the study is to characterize the statistical properties of f0 distributions beyond mean and SD. Results confirm previous observations that most f0 distributions have positive skewness, are left-tailed and have kurtosis values that deviate significantly from the normal because of large deviations from the central or modal value. A distribution fitting procedure tested six distributions. The asymmetric Burr type XII distribution emerges as the one that best fits the data in the corpus. Results show that two of the parameters that determine its shape correlate well with the empirical f0 distribution values of SD and skewness. Important effects of speaking style on f0 seen in female speakers can be reproduced by combinations of the Burr distributions’ parameters.


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