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Assessing the influence of phonetic variation on the perception of spoken threats

Tompkinson, James (2018) Assessing the influence of phonetic variation on the perception of spoken threats. PhD thesis, University of York.

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In spite of the belief that there is such a thing as a ‘threatening tone of voice’ (Watt, Kelly and Llamas, 2013), there is currently little research which explores how listeners infer traits such as threat from speakers’ voices. This thesis addresses the question of how listeners infer traits such as how threatening speakers sound, and whether phonetic aspects of speakers’ voices can play a role in shaping these evaluations. Additionally, it is sometimes the case that a victim of a crime will never see the perpetrator’s face but will hear the perpetrator’s voice. In such cases, attempts can be made to get the witness or victim to describe the offender’s voice. However, one problem with this is whether phonetically untrained listeners have the ability to accurately describe different aspects of speakers’ voices. This issue is also addressed throughout this thesis. Over five experiments, this thesis investigates the influence of a range of linguistic and phonetic variables on listeners’ evaluations of how threatening speakers sounded when producing indirect threat utterances. It also examines how accurately phonetically-untrained listeners can describe different aspects of speakers’ voices alongside their evaluative judgements of traits such as threat and intent-to-harm. As well as showing that a range of linguistic and phonetic variables can influence listeners’ threat evaluations, results support the view that caution should be adopted in over-reliance on the idea that people will “know a threat when they hear one” (Gingiss, 1986:153). This research begins to address the phonetic basis for the perceptual existence of a ‘threatening tone of voice’, along with how listeners evaluate and describe voices in earwitness contexts. Suggestions are made at the end of the thesis for improvements in the elicitation and implementation of accurate, meaningful information about speakers’ voices from linguistically-untrained listeners in evaluative settings involving spoken threats.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Threats; Phonetics; Linguistics; Forensic Speech Science; Forensic Phonetics; Forensic Linguistics
Academic Units: The University of York > Language and Linguistic Science (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.772953
Depositing User: Mr James Tompkinson
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2019 13:08
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:08
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23430

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