15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Intonational Equivalence: An Experimental Evaluation of Pitch Scales

Francis Nolan

University of Cambridge, UK

Intonationally equivalent utterances by, for instance, a man and a woman result in different pitch 'spans' when plotted on a Hertz scale. Alternative, psycho-acoustic, scales are available, such as semitones, mels, Bark and ERB-rate. Previous experiments have found hearers' linguistic pitch-related perception to be well modelled by one or another of these scales or even by Hertz, but there is no consensus. In this experiment subjects were asked to replicate equivalent 'template' intonation patterns produced by a male and a female speaker. The utterances, by design, were in three pitch spans. The 'goodness of fit' of the subjects' imitations was evaluated when pitch was represented in each of the above scales. Results for both female and male subjects showed that semitones and ERB-rate best reflect subjects' intuitions about equivalence, with semitones marginally the better. The reasons for this result, particularly its relation to previous work using prominence judgments, are discussed.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Nolan, Francis (2003): "Intonational equivalence: an experimental evaluation of pitch scales", In ICPhS-15, 771-774.