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July 30, 2012

Do people of different races have different voices?

Is there such thing as a Caucasian, Asian, or African voice? And could you actually identify someone's race just by listening to him or her? Admittedly, the whole notion of race is nebulous to say the least — it's a concept that blends physiological and social differences indiscriminately. But there are still scientists trying to study the actual physiological differences between different racial groups. And one of those differences is how we sound to each other.

The moment you try to study the actual physical differences between races, you run into trouble. The data gets tangled pretty quickly because genetic makeup doesn't always match up with how you look. Sometimes the data are statistically tangled, since any physiological characteristic of a race, from height to skin color, will overlap with characteristics of other races. And when you start to look into the question of vocal differences, you run into sociological tangles as well. Humans are talented, and often unintentional, vocal mimics. We've always been unconscious mimics, which is how language spread around in the first place. So it's pretty much impossible to find such a thing as a completely uninfluenced voice.

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Posted by acapnews at July 30, 2012 12:00 AM