The reasons why women’s voices are deeper today
We’re not talking Barry White here but some fascinating research reveals how women’s voices are becoming deeper in some countries.
If you listen to radio programmes from the 1940s and 1950s you’ll notice some striking differences between the way that people spoke then and how we express ourselves today.
The most noticeable change can be heard in their accents. Language is not static but dynamic, constantly evolving to suit the fashions of the time and this results in a shift in pronunciation.
In the UK, for instance, far fewer people talk with “received pronunciation” these days – and even Queen Elizabeth II’s voice has lost some of the cut-glass vowels of her youth. This is thought to reflect a more general shake-up in Britain’s social hierarchies, leading to a kind of linguistic cross-pollination between the classes that has even reached Her Majesty.
But once you move past those accents, you’ll find another social transformation mirrored in our voices: women today speak at a deeper pitch than their mothers or grandmothers would have done, thanks to the changing power dynamics between men and women.
Cecilia Pemberton at the University of South Australia studied the voices of two groups of Australian women aged 18–25 years. The researchers compared archival recordings of women talking in 1945 with more recent recordings taken in the early 1990s. The team found that the “fundamental frequency” had dropped by 23 Hz over five decades – from an average of 229 Hz (roughly an A# below middle C) to 206 Hz (roughly a G#). That’s a significant, audible difference.
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