Bright Voice Quality and Fundamental Frequency Variation in Non-binary Speakers

  • Brown LeAnn
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to Brown, LeAnn, CLESTHIA EA 7345, 4 Rue des Irlandais, 75005, Paris, France.
    Laboratoire Parole et Langage (LPL) UMR 7309/CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université / CLESTHIA EA 7345, Sorbonne-Nouvelle Université, Paris, France
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  • Pillot-Loiseau Claire
    Sorbonne-Nouvelle Université and Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie (LPP) UMR 7018/CNRS, Paris, France
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Published:October 06, 2022DOI:



      1) To investigate if vocal variation produced by assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) non-binary people differed from vocal variation produced by cisgender (cis) participants. Cue values produced by non-binary participants were predicted to differ from those values produced by cisgender participants. 2) To determine if previous subjective assessments of bright voice quality in AFAB non-binary participants were quantifiable, and if so, if non-binary and cisgender participants differed in their voice quality production.

      Study Design

      A quantitative comparative research design.


      Phonetic and statistical analyses of continuous speech samples produced by AFAB non-binary and cisgender participants. Vocal cues were mean fundamental frequency (F0) and bright voice quality, measured by cepstral peak prominence-smoothed and spectral slope, with speaker gender as the predictor.


      At the group level, non-binary participants produced intermediate F0 values — significantly lower than the cis women's and significantly higher than the cis men's. Individually, the majority of non-binary participants produced mean F0 in this intermediate range. Non-binary participants produced significantly less negative spectral slope and higher cepstral peak prominence-smoothed, indicative of a brighter, more resonant voice quality. Individual-level results indicated that vocal training and vocal tract physiology did not fully account for the results found.


      Participants’ agency, particularly their motivation to alter vocal output to avoid being misgendered, has an effect on the AFAB non-binary participants’ F0 production and potentially their voice quality. The majority of AFAB non-binary participants uniquely produced the cue combination of intermediate F0 and bright voice quality.

      Key Words

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