Why you may look as you sound?

The pitch of our voice changes as we get older -- female voices become lower whilst mans' grow higher.

Written by Agencies | London | Published: May 13, 2012 6:25 pm

A professional artist in UK has set up an experiment to find out if people who look the same also sound the same.

During his career,William Rudling became fascinated by the way the shape of our face affected our speech.

The 69-year-old artist from Leeds is one of four finalists in So You Want to Be a Scientist?,BBC Radio 4’s search for the UK’s best amateur researcher.

“Over the years,I’ve noticed that people with similar facial features will have a matching intonation in the sound of their voice,” the BBC quoted him as saying.

Dame Judi Dench and Samantha Bond both have similar bone structure and facial features. Close your eyes and listen,then you’ll see what I mean.”

“Does this mean the bone structure of the skull and muscle tissue influences the vocal cord? More akin to a musical instrument perhaps?”

He shared his idea with Material World on Radio 4,after they re-launched their hunt for the BBC’s Amateur Scientist of the Year.

According to Rudling’s mentor,Dr Paul Cater,a phonetician from Leeds University,nobody knows the extent to which our facial features influence our voice.

They have together devised an online experiment to test Rudling’s theory.

“It’s an interesting idea to see if there is a strong correlation between what we see on the outside and what’s on the inside,” said Dr Carter.

“Just as we have different facial features externally,that will affect the internal shape of our heads – which will have some impact on the way we sound.”

Our voices can be divided into two parts; the source and the filter. The source is a vibration in the vocal folds in the larynx,which produces a buzzing sound.

The filter is what is used to shape the sound that comes out and involves the vocal tract – our throat,mouth and nose.

By moving jaw,tongue and mouth,the size and shape of the filter can be changed,altering the speech we produce.

However,one complicating factor in this research is the extent to which speech is a learnt and changeable behaviour.

For instance,everyone speaks with an accent and there is also evidence to suggest we change the way we speak to mimic people that we admire.

Also,the pitch of our voice changes as we get older – female voices generally become lower whilst male voices grow higher.

To eliminate as many of these variables as possible,the online test features young volunteers aged 18-25 from the same area,Yorkshire.

Visitors to the website are asked to compare the shape of people’s faces,ignoring factors like eye,hair or skin colour. Then they listen to a clip of a person speaking and need to decide which person the voice belongs to.

After gathering and analysing the data,Rudling will present his results at Cheltenham Science Festival on 16 June,where a winner will be chosen as the next BBC Amateur Scientist of the Year.

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