In linguistics, creaky voice (sometimes called laryngealisation, pulse phonation, vocal fry, or glottal fry) is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact. They normally vibrate irregularly at 20–50 pulses per second, about two octaves below the frequency of modal voicing, and the airflow through the glottis is very slow. Although creaky voice may occur with very low pitch, as at the end of a long intonation unit, it can also occur with a higher pitch.
In the Received Pronunciation of English, creaky voice has been described as a possible realisation of glottal reinforcement. For example, an alternative phonetic transcription of attempt [əˈtʰemʔt] could be [əˈtʰemm̰t].
In some languages, such as Jalapa Mazatec, creaky voice has a phonemic status; that is, the presence or absence of creaky voice can change the meaning of a word. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, creaky voice of a phone is represented by a diacritical tilde U+0330 ̰ COMBINING TILDE BELOW, for example [d̰]. The Danish prosodic feature stød is an example of a form of laryngealisation that has a phonemic function. A slight degree of laryngealisation, occurring in some Korean language consonants for example, is called "stiff voice".
Researcher Ikuko Patricia Yuasa found that "college-age Americans ... perceive female creaky voice as hesitant, nonaggressive, and informal but also educated, urban-oriented, and upwardly mobile." However, according to a 2012 study in PLOS ONE, young women using creaky voice are viewed as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive and less employable. Creaky voice is characterised as a speech pathology or voluntary vocal affectation, noting that its use as a “fashion trend” can be off-putting and damage the professional image of young women. Some suggest that creaky voice can function as a marker of parentheticals in conversations; utterance of certain phrases in creaky voice may suggest that they carry less important information.
It is subsequently theorized that creaky voice may be a way for women to sound more "authoritative" and credible by using it to emulate the deeper male register; Pennock-Speck finds that creaky voice is sometimes seen as sexually desirable in American culture, by those who don't find it off-putting for the reasons given above. It has been suggested that there may be biological reasons as to why women produce creaky voice more than men, specifically their shorter vocal cords, making the bunching of their vocal cords easier. Yuasa further theorizes that because California is at the center of American popular culture and much of the entertainment industry is rooted there, young Americans may unconsciously be using creaky voice more because of the media they consume. She concludes that further research is needed in analyzing creaky voice in other regions of the country.
Another potential reason young women are the highest demographic to be speaking with creaky voice is rooted in "conversational entrainment". Borrie & Delfino (2017) analyze "conversational entrainment", or the natural inclination people have to modulate their voices to match their conversational mate. They hypothesize that participants in their study will use creaky voice more when engaging with a partner who frequently uses creaky voice, as opposed to someone using creaky voice minimally. They further posit that the more entrainment occurs, the more successful the conversation will be in both efficiency and enjoyment. To test these hypotheses, they gave two participants different pictures and asked them to work together to find the ten small differences between their images. One conversational partner spoke with vocal fry often, while the other conversational partner did not speak it much. They found that the more participants attempted to mirror their conversational partner in vocal fry, the better the participants were able to communicate successfully. Further, vocal fry entrainment led to greater likeability between the partners.
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