Pitch (F0) and formant profiles of human vowels and vowel-like baboon grunts: the role of vocalizer body size and voice-acoustic allometry.
Key voice features--fundamental frequency (F0) and formant frequencies--can vary extensively between individuals. Much of the variation can be traced to differences in the size of the larynx and vocal-tract cavities, but whether these differences in turn simply reflect differences in speaker body size (i.e., neutral vocal allometry) remains unclear. Quantitative analyses were therefore undertaken to test the relationship between speaker body size and voice F0 and formant frequencies for human vowels. To test the taxonomic generality of the relationships, the same analyses were conducted on the vowel-like grunts of baboons, whose phylogenetic proximity to humans and similar vocal production biology and voice acoustic patterns recommend them for such comparative research. For adults of both species, males were larger than females and had lower mean voice F0 and formant frequencies. However, beyond this, F0 variation did not track body-size variation between the sexes in either species, nor within sexes in humans. In humans, formant variation correlated significantly with speaker height but only in males and not in females. Implications for general vocal allometry are discussed as are implications for speech origins theories, and challenges to them, related to laryngeal position and vocal tract length.