Vocal Fry: A Sonic Feature of a Diverse City #Acoustics23

Community diversity is among many factors, including gender and ethnicity, that determine the use of creaky voice in speech in Sydney, Australia.

SYDNEY, Dec. 8, 2023 – Vocal fry has a bad reputation in American English. A subtype of creaky voice, a feature of speech that sounds gravelly and pulselike, this manner of speech is sometimes used to form judgment about the speaker. In many languages, the creaky tone changes the meaning of words, exhibited in Lango spoken in South Sudan or Jalapa Mazatec spoken in Mexico.

Hannah White and her Department of Linguistics colleagues at Macquarie University researched how creaky voice is reflected in Australian English used in Sydney, and what factors influence its prevalence. She will present her findings on the complex relationship between creaky voice and gender, ethnicity, and the diversity of where the speaker lives Dec. 8 at 9:40 a.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time, as part of Acoustics 2023, running Dec. 4-8 at the International Convention Centre Sydney.

vocal fry

Image representing “Multicultural Australian English: The new voice of Sydney,” a project that aims to examine speech production in the culturally diverse nation. Credit: Multicultural Australian English Project

“Creaky voice has been researched a lot in American English, but very little has been done here, in Australia,” said White. “We wanted to investigate if the common belief that creaky voice is a feature of women’s speech is true for Australian English. Studies in New Zealand and London have found that creaky voice use is influenced by speaker ethnic heritage, and with Sydney being as multicultural as it is, we wanted to investigate that here.”

White’s team used conversation samples from high school students across Sydney and employed algorithms to automatically identify creaky voice. The data used was part of a larger Australian Research Council-funded project called “Multicultural Australian English: The new voice of Sydney,” led by Professor Felicity Cox.

Their results reveal that the area a speaker lives, and its diversity, are some of the most significant factors determining creaky voice use. They could not generalize about the influence of gender on creaky voice in Australian English in Sydney.

“There was no statistically significant difference in creak prevalence by gender in the area with a high proportion of monolingual English speakers,” said White. “In some of the other areas, men used less creak than women, and, in other areas, women used less creak than men.”

In future work, White seeks to approach the topic from the listener’s angle, investigating attitudes toward creaky voice and the coded social meaning.


AIP Media


The Acoustical Society of America is joining the Australian Acoustical Society to co-host Acoustics 2023 Sydney. This collaborative event will incorporate the Western Pacific Acoustics Conference and the Pacific Rim Underwater Acoustics Conference.

Main meeting website: https://acoustics23sydney.org/
Technical program: https://eppro01.ativ.me/src/EventPilot/php/express/web/planner.php?id=ASAFALL23

In the coming weeks, ASA’s Press Room will be updated with newsworthy stories and the press conference schedule at https://acoustics.org/asa-press-room/.

ASA will also share dozens of lay language papers about topics covered at the conference. Lay language papers are summaries (300-500 words) of presentations written by scientists for a general audience. They will be accompanied by photos, audio, and video. Learn more at

ASA will grant free registration to credentialed and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend the meeting or virtual press conferences, contact AIP Media Services at media@aip.org. For urgent requests, AIP staff can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world’s leading journal on acoustics), JASA Express Letters, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. See https://acousticalsociety.org/.

The Australian Acoustical Society (AAS) is the peak technical society for individuals working in acoustics in Australia. The AAS aims to promote and advance the science and practice of acoustics in all its branches to the wider community and provide support to acousticians. Its diverse membership is made up from academia, consultancies, industry, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and all levels of Government. The Society supports research and provides regular forums for those who practice or study acoustics across a wide range of fields The principal activities of the Society are technical meetings held by each State Division, annual conferences which are held by the State Divisions and the ASNZ in rotation, and publication of the journal Acoustics Australia. https://www.acoustics.org.au/

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