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Lang Speech. 1995 Jul-Sep;38 ( Pt 3):253-65.

Sociocultural aspects of pitch differences between Japanese and Dutch women.

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Institute of General Linguistics and Dialectology, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Japanese women have been found to have higher pitches than Dutch women. This finding has been explained in the past by assuming that Japanese women raise their pitch in order to project a vocal image associated with feminine attributes of powerlessness. In the present study three hypotheses underlying such an assumption were tested experimentally: (1) the association of high pitch with attributes of physical and psychological powerlessness (short, weak, dependent, modest) in the Dutch and Japanese cultures, (2) a stronger differentiation between the ideal woman and man, in terms of powerlessness/power, in Japan than in the Netherlands and (3) a preference for high pitch in women in Japan and for medium or low pitch in women in the Netherlands. All three hypotheses were confirmed. However, results also suggest a strong emphasis in Japan on masculinity in men, possibly leading to a lowering of pitch.

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