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Voice quality in Mandarin sarcastic speech (Li et al., 2020)

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posted on 2020-08-07, 18:29 authored by Shanpeng Li, Wentao Gu, Lei Liu, Ping Tang
Purpose: Sarcasm is a specialized speech act in daily vocal communication usually characterized by unique prosodic features, but the role of voice quality in expressing sarcasm has not been explored much. The goal of this study is to explore the voice quality features of Mandarin sarcastic speech in comparison to sincere speech.
Method: Fifteen male and 15 female native speakers of Mandarin uttered 31 target sentences with both sincere and sarcastic attitudes. Nine voice quality parameters extracted from the acoustic and electroglottographic signals were analyzed using a linear mixed model, and a classification analysis using a random forest algorithm was conducted to identify the relative contribution of these parameters to the differentiation between sincere and sarcastic utterances.
Results: In comparison to sincere speech, sarcastic speech had a creakier voice, which was characterized by a lower fundamental frequency, a greater degree of vocal fold adduction (i.e., higher contact quotient), lesser noise (i.e., higher harmonics-to-noise ratio), and more multiple pulsing (i.e., higher subharmonic-to-harmonic ratio). The interaction effect revealed a gender difference in the use of creakier voice to express sarcasm in Mandarin. The classification analysis using the random forest algorithm showed that the nine voice quality parameters resulted in 84.0% and 83.7% identification rates for sarcastic and sincere utterances, respectively.
Conclusions: The results of this preliminary study support the role of voice quality in expressing sarcasm in Mandarin speech. Using a set of voice quality parameters, sarcastic and sincere utterances can be effectively identified. Furthermore, there is a gender difference in the use of creakier voice in expressing Mandarin sarcastic speech.

Supplemental Material S1. Speech sound samples.

Li, S., Gu, W., Liu, L., & Tang, P. (2020). The role of voice quality in Mandarin sarcastic speech: An acoustic and electroglottographic study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was supported by the Major Program of the National Social Science Fund of China (13&ZD189) and a Jiangsu Higher Institutions’ Excellent Innovative Team for Philosophy and Social Sciences project (2017STD006).