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Freejooky
04-25-2004, 10:41 PM
Now, don't get all Cecil on me (ie. getting all PC and saying the question is unfair, etc.), because I've wondered this for years.

Black people's voices have a definite "blackness" to them - I'm referring specifically to the timbre or sound, before grammar, inflection, diction, etc. even come into play. This rules out the sociocultural answers ("blacks are more likely to use slang," or "blacks tend to be more relaxed with language", etc.) that are often given.

So, what's the deal? Even the "whitest" sounding blacks - those doing professional voiceover or radio work, where super-strict diction and inflection is enforced, still "sound black."

But I can't put my finger on what element of the voice provides this "blackness."

Anyone?

Askia
04-25-2004, 11:14 PM
My guess? Imprinting. http://www.epub.org.br/cm/n14/experimento/lorenz/index-lorenz.html

Rebuttal: American academian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., American author Lawrence Otis Graham, British comedian Lenny Henry, British singer Shirley Bassey, American journalist Bryant Gumbel and British actress Thandie Newton.

None of their normal speaking voices have the particularly strong ethnic sound associated with "blackness."

This specific cross section would also suggest a strong national/socioeconomic correlation between ethnic self-identification and "sounding" black.

flight
04-25-2004, 11:22 PM
I was just discussing this earlier today. What came out of the discussion was that this holds for a high percentage, but there is a very distinct minority where you cannot tell. It seems black voices tend to have a certain deeper resonance.

However, try listening to black Englishmen. I, at least for the several I have met, would not be able to tell they are black without seeing them. So, it may have something to do with American black culture, or it may be that I cannot tell the difference because the English accent itself is so different that I cannot distinguish any other subtle differences. This would be similar to someone who speaks English as a second language (even if the speak very well) being generally unable to notice differences between the accents in different parts if the US that would be glaringly obvious to a native.

precipitate
04-25-2004, 11:55 PM
In my experience, it's all cultural. I used to work with three guys, all executives, who took immense pleasure in meeting in person the people they'd been having teleconferences with for years because invariably those people had no idea they were black.

There's no physiological difference. It's all cultural. Some people take great pains to make their voice that of the American newscaster -- nice, neutral accent. Some try and don't quite get there. Some don't care.

Wendell Wagner
04-26-2004, 02:00 AM
It's all in the pronunciation of the words. Freejooky, when you claim that:

> I'm referring specifically to the timbre or sound, before grammar, inflection,
> diction, etc. even come into play.

you're incorrect. It *is* the ". . . inflection, diction . . ." (I assume that by these terms you mean the pronunciation. It's not the "timbre or sound." There's nothing inborn in American blacks which causes them to have a different "timbre or sound." I'm not even sure what that could be. Vocal frequency? What you're hearing is a slightly different pronunciation of words, mostly a difference in the pronunciation of vowels. Being able to pick out and correctly describe the differences in pronunciation is a harder job than one might expect. Without some professional training in this, one could be easily fooled into thinking that someone's pronunciations were genetically caused when it was simply a matter of them having learned a different pronunciation.

Not all American blacks have this accent, though. I would estimate that something like 75% of American blacks have an accent that sounds distinctively black. The rest have accents that are indistinguishable from whites from their region of the country. Most American blacks spend most of their time with other American blacks. Nor are they influenced much by white America even in their contacts with the media. A lot of the music they listen to is by other American blacks. Likewise, the TV they watch has a lot of American blacks on it. (TV surveys show that the top 10 TV shows watched by American blacks is quite different from the top 10 watched by white Americans.)

EvilGhandi
04-26-2004, 02:46 AM
Quote

"Black people's voices have a definite "blackness" to them"

I call bullshit.

I dare you to equate a Kentucky accent with an east LA accent or for that matter an Appalacian.

Bullshit, bullshit bullshit.

Here in Hawaii we have "blacks" One of my best customers is From the Dominican Republic. He sounds about as hispanic as anyone I have ever met. Blacker than the ace of spades.

Another customer of mine is from Kentucky, African American to be sure, Talks like an educated lawyer, with a southern accent, which, supprisingly enough he is.

Another one, a secretary, works for the Feds sounds, well on the phone she sounds as white as the driven snow. (mainland accent) Sweet lady by the way. You guessed it, so dark she's almost purple.

If you were to Talk to me on the phone you would swear I was Native Hawaiian, I was, after all raised here, but I am Kamaaina. My wife on the other hand is 50% native blooded, she was raised in New York. Who do think sounds more "local"?

The Tim
04-26-2004, 02:56 AM
Each person has a pitch range they can speak in. There are optimal ranges for comfort, volume and the like. Where you set your voice and how you change the pitch are learnt part of the linguistic groups you interact with.

Listen to individuals you would consider black from different cultures, especially ones with different languages. You will hear that there is no inherent unifying "blackness" to the voices.

Askia
04-26-2004, 03:29 AM
Listen to individuals you would consider black from different cultures, especially ones with different languages. You will hear that there is no inherent unifying "blackness" to the voices. We-ee-eell -- maybe not inherent unifying blackness -- you don't just pop out the womb knowing how to say, "peace, my brother," "pass the hot sauce" and "muthafucka" credibly, you definitely have to learn that -- but there are certain learned inflections, slang, expressions, obscenities that are amazingly cross-cultural, esp. when you consider the increasing global influence (permeance?) of American hip-hop culture. Back in school I was shocked at the similarities in English-speaking among the Ghanians, Dominicans, Toronto natives and South Africans who went to my university. Shoot, my Panamanian roommate tipped me off to Outkast and I was FROM Atlanta.

I guess my point is that it IS learned behavior, part of socialization, imprinting and cultural reinforcement. Conversely, you can take pains to not "sound black".... the author, Lawrence Otis Graham, whom I cited in an earlier post, writes in his book OUR KIND OF PEOPLE about the steps certain elitist, wealthy, light-skinned American blacks take to ethnically divorce themselves (and their children) from the masses, including carefully monitoring their entertainment so that they don't listen to gospel, rap, popular R&B, blues and end up sounding black. Paradoxically, they don't try to become white either, but end up in this narrow privledged world of like-minded people. I'm oversimplifying, of course, and probably pissing off somebody out there so I'll guess I'll shut up now... mumble mumble mumble....

Uh, peace out.

Excalibre
04-26-2004, 08:11 AM
I don't get it. Dennis Haysbert, for instance, doesn't have a trace of BVE in his speech, but his voice couldn't even plausibly be that of a white guy to me. Why does it make people so upset to note that there is a difference in the timbre of black peoples' voices completely separate from their speech style? I'll grant that it's not universal - it's a matter of averages. But the majority of black people, no matter how they speak, sound black to me.

Wendell Wagner
04-26-2004, 09:35 AM
I don't know who Dennis Haysbert is, but I suspect that there is a trace of AAVE in his manner of speaking. You think you don't hear it because he doesn't have any of the grammatical or vocabulary typical of AAVE, but you don't realize that you're unconsciously hearing the typical pronunciation of AAVE, mostly in the vowel sounds. Hearing an "accent," particularly with regard to pronunciation, is not as easy for someone not trained in this as one might expect.

yabob
04-26-2004, 10:35 AM
We just went around this a while back:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=247120

The thread got moved to IMHO. Well, IMHO, it could have stayed here, but I'm not a mod. There have apprently been a few studies suggesting that in America, at least, people can tell race from a person's voice with astonishing accuracy, even if the person is carefully speaking American Standard English.

I'm inclined to say that it's nearly all cultural, especially since you can point to exceptions fairly easily, and a lot of professional broadcasters seem to be able to train themselves not to do it, just like broadcasters who started out with a regional accent of some sort. KGO, our local talk radio station, has a couple of black announcers who do not sound black, for instance.

Hail Ants
04-26-2004, 10:28 PM
Hmmm...

Thing is, it really isn't a matter of an accent. It's... something else. Tone, pitch, something. Because I've heard people, announcers etc. speak and can instantly tell if they're black. And I've never been wrong. Another funny thing, it only works with black men. Women, I can't tell.

Can black people tell if someone's white? Isn't that where the term 'honky' came from (sounding nasally like a goose's honk)?

Purd Werfect
04-26-2004, 11:10 PM
KGO, our local talk radio station, has a couple of black announcers who do not sound black, for instance.

I was able to tell with Rosie Allen and Brian Copeland quite easily, but would have never guessed with Ray Taliaferro. Interesting.

pizzabrat
04-26-2004, 11:22 PM
Hail Ants
Thing is, it really isn't a matter of an accent. It's... something else. Tone, pitch, something.

Tone and pitch make up an accent. It's just accents people, it's really not that deep. Black people grow up and socialize with black people, white people grow up and socialize with with people; that's exactly how accents are made. That's why both groups have different accents. Why is it so hard to accept something that simple?

pizzabrat
04-26-2004, 11:25 PM
Hail AntsCan black people tell if someone's white? Isn't that where the term 'honky' came from (sounding nasally like a goose's honk)?

That signature white nasal voice is strictly an American (and Canadian) phenomenon. I just watched E!'s Wild on Trinidad, and the white Trinis' voices were just as bassy as the black Trinis'. Same goes for the black American accents.

Wendell Wagner
04-27-2004, 07:07 AM
Hail Ants writes:

> Isn't that where the term 'honky' came from (sounding nasally like a goose's
> honk)?

No, the word started as "bohunk," which was a slang term for immigrants for East Europe, probably because many of them were from Bohemia or Hungary. This was then modified to "hunky" and then to "honky." In AAVE, this then came to apply to any white person, not just one from Eastern Europe. (I suspect this was because many American blacks were living in inner city neighborhoods not far from Eastern European immigrant neighborhoods and the term they used for the people in the next neighborhood became the general term for whites. Some people think that the word "honky" may have also come from a term used among African-Americans before that time that derived from a Wolof (an African language that did have some words brought over with slaves) word that meant "pink," but that's a little dubious.

You know, I don't understand why people post their own clever personal derivations of words without first checking in a dictionary if there's any plausibility to them. I understand why someone could come up with such derivations, but when you post them on the SDMB you're putting them in print. Dictionaries are cheap. Wouldn't it make sense to have one by your side as you post?

LuckySevens
04-27-2004, 07:11 AM
Tone and pitch make up an accent. It's just accents people, it's really not that deep. Black people grow up and socialize with black people, white people grow up and socialize with with people; that's exactly how accents are made. That's why both groups have different accents. Why is it so hard to accept something that simple?

because we have idealist minds that cant tolerate natural racism among our choices in who we hang out with? :o

pizzabrat
04-27-2004, 08:42 AM
Wendell Wagner
No, the word started as "bohunk," which was a slang term for immigrants for East Europe, probably because many of them were from Bohemia or Hungary. This was then modified to "hunky" and then to "honky." In AAVE, this then came to apply to any white person, not just one from Eastern Europe. (I suspect this was because many American blacks were living in inner city neighborhoods not far from Eastern European immigrant neighborhoods and the term they used for the people in the next neighborhood became the general term for whites. Some people think that the word "honky" may have also come from a term used among African-Americans before that time that derived from a Wolof (an African language that did have some words brought over with slaves) word that meant "pink," but that's a little dubious.

You know, I don't understand why people post their own clever personal derivations of words without first checking in a dictionary if there's any plausibility to them. I understand why someone could come up with such derivations, but when you post them on the SDMB you're putting them in print. Dictionaries are cheap. Wouldn't it make sense to have one by your side as you post?

Both dictionary.com and websters.com sound only half as sure as themselves as you do. That "bohunk" thing sounds so trite and complicated it might as well be an urban legend. Whites in the U.S. are stereotyped as having nasal, "honky" voices. It's such a simple, obvious explination that I'm going to have to skip the dictionary folks' "I dunno, maybe" guesses and go with Occam's Razor.

Excalibre
04-27-2004, 11:08 AM
Tone and pitch make up an accent. It's just accents people, it's really not that deep. Black people grow up and socialize with black people, white people grow up and socialize with with people; that's exactly how accents are made. That's why both groups have different accents. Why is it so hard to accept something that simple?

Tone and pitch make up accent? Ok, quick lesson: pitch refers to the frequency of sound, the "highness" or "lowness" of it. For example, the pitch of Barry White's voice is lower than average. Tone generally refers to the 'timbre' of a sound, the mixture of pitches that give it its unique quality. Neither of these has anything whatsoever to do with ones accent, and we don't just "accept" it because their appears to be fundamental difference in the "tone" and "pitch" of black and white people's voices that is unrelated to how they speak.

Chalking it up to socialization is completely insufficient; especially since you yourself acknowledged that the pitch and tone of black people's voices differ from those of white people. Unless of course you think the pitch of Barry White's voice is something he acquired from socializing exclusively with those with basso profundo voices.

As stated above, I am in the camp that believes there is a quality that is fundamentally different between black people's and white people's voices. In my experience, black people tend to have deeper voices than white people, and there is a roundness or fullness that it generally lacking in white people. Is it so hard to accept that there could be physiological differences between black people and white people? Here's another: black people tend to have darker skin than white people. No, really! It turns out that this feature is the origin of the terms "black" and "white".

It's certainly possible that this is do to a different manner of production; black people could deliberately use a slightly lower register than white people. But isn't it conceivable that there's a physical difference in the hardware?

Of course, it's hard to tell in the end, because as Wendell Wagner points out waaay above, it's hard to lose all traces of an accent. I can't think of a way to study this scientifically without finding enough white people raised by black families or vice versa, and that seems rather difficult.

pizzabrat
04-27-2004, 12:04 PM
Excalibre
Chalking it up to socialization is completely insufficient; especially since you yourself acknowledged that the pitch and tone of black people's voices differ from those of white people. Unless of course you think the pitch of Barry White's voice is something he acquired from socializing exclusively with those with basso profundo voices.

I can easily make my voice more nasal without much effort, and I'm certain I'd speak that way naturally if everybody who taught me to talk spoke that way too. Of course the main pitch of a person's voice is inborn, but some of it can also be affected. Here's (http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/waiwai/0206/020628deep.html) a blantant example.


It's certainly possible that this is do to a different manner of production; black people could deliberately use a slightly lower register than white people. But isn't it conceivable that there's a physical difference in the hardware?

No it's not concievable when it's already been pointed out that these differences only exist in the U.S., which has a political black/white dichotomy. If there's a difference in the "hardware", then why doesn't this difference exist for nobody else in the world except for black Americans? Why do Asian-Americans sound exactly like white Americans (or black Americans)? And nobody said anything about "deliberately" using a lower register; I'm not saying that blacks are deliberately affecting an accent for the sole purpose of being different from whites. I'm saying blacks and whites in the U.S. have effectively been as seperate as nations, so of course there are going to be white accents and black accents.

Of course, it's hard to tell in the end, because as Wendell Wagner points out waaay above, it's hard to lose all traces of an accent. I can't think of a way to study this scientifically without finding enough white people raised by black families or vice versa, and that seems rather difficult.

Haven't you heard black children of white families talk before? They naturally have perfect white accents.

This crap just infuriates me so much. Anytime somebody notices a difference in black Americans, they're ready to jump through loops to cast them into a whole different dimension because of it. It's not a freaking mystery of the Earth, it's just a GD ACCENT!!!

theR
04-27-2004, 12:09 PM
Tone and pitch make up accent? Ok, quick lesson: pitch refers to the frequency of sound, the "highness" or "lowness" of it. For example, the pitch of Barry White's voice is lower than average. Tone generally refers to the 'timbre' of a sound, the mixture of pitches that give it its unique quality. Neither of these has anything whatsoever to do with ones accent, and we don't just "accept" it because their appears to be fundamental difference in the "tone" and "pitch" of black and white people's voices that is unrelated to how they speak.

Appears to be (in some people's eyes, at least). I don't hear it and never would accept that there is a "fundamental difference in the tone and pitch of black and white people's voices that is unrelated to how they speak." Of course it is related to how they speak. I can speak higher or lower, and I can learn to speak even higher or lower than that. Do you think the stereotypical gay lisp and high voice are physiological rather than learned?

Chalking it up to socialization is completely insufficient; especially since you yourself acknowledged that the pitch and tone of black people's voices differ from those of white people. Unless of course you think the pitch of Barry White's voice is something he acquired from socializing exclusively with those with basso profundo voices.

I've been called Barry White many times by people who have only heard my voice and never seen me. People that have seen me tend to say I look like (white) Jesus, though. If I had musical training, which I assume Mr. White had, or if I grew up around singers, I'm sure I could make my voice sound even deeper.

As stated above, I am in the camp that believes there is a quality that is fundamentally different between black people's and white people's voices. In my experience, black people tend to have deeper voices than white people, and there is a roundness or fullness that it generally lacking in white people. Is it so hard to accept that there could be physiological differences between black people and white people?

When every other difference in accent and speech of whole groups of people is determined by environment, particularly geographical region, yes, it is very difficult to accept that this one difference in these two (poorly defined) groups is due to physiology. Especially when you consider that nobody has presented anything other than anecdotal evidence that a difference exists. People learn at a very early age how to deepen or raise the pitch of their voice. You wouldn't be able to ask questions sensibly if you didn't learn it. Everyone knows you can ask a question by changing, among other things, the pitch of your voice? (Say it out loud with and without the question mark.)

It's certainly possible that this is do to a different manner of production; black people could deliberately use a slightly lower register than white people. But isn't it conceivable that there's a physical difference in the hardware?

Conceivable, but not the most likely explanation considering that physical differences are not offered up for any other differences in speech and language that I know of. Maybe you could point me to some credible theories, though? Remember, we're talking about groups as a whole, not one individual who has something abnormal that makes him talk a certain way.

ruadh
04-27-2004, 12:13 PM
No it's not concievable when it's already been pointed out that these differences only exist in the U.S., which has a political black/white dichotomy. If there's a difference in the "hardware", then why doesn't this difference exist for nobody else in the world except for black Americans?

If you read my comments and everton's in the thread yabob linked to, above, you'll see that these differences do not only exist in the U.S.


Why do Asian-Americans sound exactly like white Americans (or black Americans)?

I can specifically remember one time when I was able to identify someone as Asian-American just by the sound of her voice.

flight
04-27-2004, 12:18 PM
Both dictionary.com and websters.com sound only half as sure as themselves as you do. That "bohunk" thing sounds so trite and complicated it might as well be an urban legend. Whites in the U.S. are stereotyped as having nasal, "honky" voices. It's such a simple, obvious explination that I'm going to have to skip the dictionary folks' "I dunno, maybe" guesses and go with Occam's Razor.

Come on, you must have read enough of the etymology columns by Cecil and the SDSAB (band name?) to know that the simple and logical explanation for the derivation of a word is almost never correct. Language tends to follow a much more tortured route.

Excalibre
04-27-2004, 01:14 PM
The problem here is that we're all arguing out of our collective asses (yeah, me too.) I have yet to hear any solid evidence that black and white people in other countries sound the same (you having heard it on TV doesn't sway me.) And I suspect that even if natives of those countries COULD perceive the difference a USian might not be able to, since whatever subtleties distinguish "black" voices from "white" ones could well be overwhelmed by the novel (to the yankee in question) accent.

My experience is that black people, apart from their sociolect, DO sound different from white people. But it is true that the last vestiges of an accent may be hard to eliminate, and I could be unconsciously perceiving traces of BVE speech patterns.

I also feel that I can detect a difference in speech style - call it a dialect or sociolect if you will - between educated black people and educated white people. Generally it seems to me as though highly educated black people speak in a highly crisp, slightly formal style compared to highly educated white people. Again, this is just my perception, but it's not something I've read about anywhere else.

Unfortunately, we haven't established (as in, through citation) whether these differences even exist between black and white speakers using the same dialect - would we perceive them at all without seeing the speaker? Next we need to determine if it is indeed a US-only phenomenon, or whether blacks in other countries have distinct speech patterns from whites - and again, I think it would be important to employ natives of the area to do the 'detection', since I suspect any Trinidadian accent (for instance) would outweigh my ability to make this distinction.

Finally, I want to point out that I'm speaking only of generalities. Certainly on a case by case basis, there will be white people who sound "black" and black people who sound "white". (Although I wouldn't count Thandie Newton in this category since I would never have guessed she was black, and I think that depends on a very stretchy cultural definition of the term.) Naturally I also realize that black people and white people are not isolated groups and it can be difficult to determine whether someone counts as "black" or "white". If research were being done, the "borderline" cases would have to be considered separately.

monstro
04-27-2004, 01:57 PM
I don't think it's biological, but saying that differences apart from "slang" don't exist is not accurate.

Just a WAG: it may be that black people have less tolerance for a nasal vocal tone and are trained early on not to whine (because that's how it sounds sometimes). Another one: the voices of black people are smoother--tending not to modulate as frequently as white voices. From my personal experience, white women at least are more likely to talk in questions. As in:

"We are the world? We are the children? We are the ones that make a brighter day so let's start giving?!"

(Think Joan Cusack and then Whoopie Goldberg in her stand-up act in which she impersonates a white girl.)

Now, that is extreme (and surely annoying to most people), but I think whites in general are more likely to have a fluctuating speech pattern. I know some whites who have pretty smooth speech, but most, if not all, of the black people I know have it. Like nasal tone, this is something that's easily learned through socialization.

When I was little, I used to watch this show called "Reading Rainbow". Being the lonely latchkey kid that I was, I used to pretend that my mother sang the theme song. I instinctively knew that the singer was a black woman, just by the quality of her voice. Turns out I was right. I can't believe Chaka Khan (http://www.chakakhan.com/CKBio.html) is my mother!

umop ap!sdn
04-27-2004, 02:56 PM
There's no physiological difference.

All the races have physiological differences. You can tell from peoples' faces what race they are... why should there be any difference with voices? Any variation in the vocal tract, no matter how slight, is going to effect voice timbre. Even individual differences are enough to enable us to tell each other apart.

I suspect there is a factual answer to the OP, but finding it would involve taking sound spectrograms and describing the result in terms of hertz and decibels.

Carnac the Magnificent!
04-27-2004, 04:15 PM
[QUOTE=cityboy916]All the races have physiological differences. You can tell from peoples' faces what race they are... why should there be any difference with voices? [QUOTE]

Does this vocal difference also apply to West African sprinters with a high concentration of fast-twitch muscles?

mmmiiikkkeee
04-27-2004, 04:40 PM
All the races have physiological differences. You can tell from peoples' faces what race they are...

Glad you said that not me. What race would these (http://www.eurweb.com/images/09172003/tommy_chong(med-small).jpg) two (http://jackperr.free.fr/jennifer_tilly.jpg) be?
Humans have done so much mingling that there is just as much variation of these traits within a "race" as there is between them... AFAIK there is little if any scientific/biological distinction between races.

Any variation in the vocal tract, no matter how slight, is going to effect voice timbre. Even individual differences are enough to enable us to tell each other apart.

And those differences are found amongst even siblings with the same parents... it would be very difficult (impossible) to prove such a close and commonly shared vocal trait in a group as large and diverse as the black population that does not exist in a good chunk of the white/Asian/Indian/etc population as well... in the US or any other country.

I sound a lot more like David Suzuki than J.D. Sumner... who sounds a lot more like Barry White than Michael Jackson. My vote goes for cultural pronunciation as to how we can tell race by voice.

vetbridge
04-27-2004, 05:16 PM
What race would these (http://www.eurweb.com/images/09172003/tommy_chong(med-small).jpg) two (http://jackperr.free.fr/jennifer_tilly.jpg) be?

Tommy Chong---> People I would like to party with race.

Jennifer Tilly------> People I would like to "get to know better" race.

And by hearing Ms Tilly's voice I would immediately be able to tell ;)

syncrolecyne
04-27-2004, 07:23 PM
There's a well-known boxing promoter named "Rock" Newman. He looks quite "white" (I have no pic, but he looks a lot like a middle-aged Orson Welles), but he self-identifies as African-American. I recall him once describing times when he overheard racist comments by whites who assumed as was white as well, only to sh*t their pants when they heard his voice, which sounds very "black".

However, I have heard some white people from places like New Orleans or the rest of the deep south speak very much like some African-Americans do. These dialects overlap in a few areas.

tomndebb
04-27-2004, 07:29 PM
Is it so hard to accept that there could be physiological differences between black people and white people? It is not hard to accept, at all: it simply requires some evidence.

Ever heard Eddie Murphy doing his "white man" bit? He sounds dead on as a typical middle class guy from the Northern U.S.--provided the guy was white.
Even people who grow up speaking American Standard instead of Black Vernacular are going to emulate the tones, pitches, and timbres of the people with whom they most frequently associate (while the dialects tend to be based on grammar, syntax and vocabulary, not sound). While the majority of the East Asian-descended people I know speak with a higher, more nasal pitch than most whites, they are nearly all people whose parents (at the most remote) still lived in ethnic neighborhoods. The few I know whose parents grew up as isolated East Asians in white neighborhoods sound typically "white" (probably because the accent is two generations removed).

It was even more difficult for blacks, in the U.S., to live separated from black neighborhoods. (We're beginning to see a the first groups of Korean adoptees from white families in the workforce today, for example with no corresponding group of black kids.)

I would not be surprised to discover that blacks in Europe have a "black" timbre. For the most part, they are either immigrants or the children of immigrants from European colonies who are only reaching the third generation away from societies in which African or African-derived speech predominated in the places they grew up.

To posit a physiological basis, I would need to see evidence of actual physical structures that differed in the throats (along with a good explanation as to why a person who was "black" only under the "one drop" rule, and so grew up in a black neighborhood, still spoke "black" despite having less than half their genes supplied from African ancestors).

moriah
04-27-2004, 08:09 PM
Yes, we all know that James Earl Jones, Barry White, Chris Rock, and Urkel all have the same pitch, tone, resonance, timbre, and accent because they're all Black. Everyone knows it. It's not prejudice at all to point that out.

umop ap!sdn
04-27-2004, 08:43 PM
Glad you said that not me. What race would these (http://www.eurweb.com/images/09172003/tommy_chong(med-small).jpg) two (http://jackperr.free.fr/jennifer_tilly.jpg) be?

To rephrase, you can sometimes tell from peoples' faces what race they are. As for these 2 people, no I would not have guessed they were anything other than white. (Although the second picture made my day :D)

Humans have done so much mingling that there is just as much variation of these traits within a "race" as there is between them... AFAIK there is little if any scientific/biological distinction between races.

So humans have mingled so much that not everybody is 100% one particular race, but this does not mean that there has been so much mingling that the races have dissolved altogether. Look at nose shape, eye shape, cheekbones... there's plenty of distinction. And it was mentioned in another thread somewhere that the individual differences themselves vary from race to race.

it would be very difficult (impossible) to prove such a close and commonly shared vocal trait

Right. Can't prove it yet but I can hear it. Can't describe it either but it's definitely there (most of the time). It's that nuance that Roberta Flack has that Janis Ian doesn't. It's not pitch or accent; I wasn't fooled the first time I heard Skylark's Wildflower (black group trying to sound white) or Wild Cherry's Play That Funky Music (white group trying to sound black).