Creaky Voice as a Stylistic Feature of Young American Female Speech: An Intraspeaker Variation Study of Scarlett Johansson
This study examines the stylistic use of ‘creaky voice’ in a single speaker: the American actress Scarlett Johansson. Recently, there has been a marked increase in both media and academic interest in creaky voice, with work by Yuasa (2010) and Wolk et al. (2011) confirming the prevalence of this feature among young American female speakers. Our study was directly motivated by the work of Barry Pennock-Speck (2005), who took a qualitative approach to analyzing the speech of three American actresses for stylistic modulation of their voice quality. The present study focuses on only one American actress (Johansson), who was chosen as she is an established, successful young American female (at time of research) and therefore was an appropriate subject to represent the social group we are discussing. Our materials included six of Johansson’s films that were developed whilst she was between the ages 18–24. This age range falls in line with previous work on creaky voice (Wolk et al. 2011) who defined their age bracket of study as 18–25 years old. We contrasted American and British character roles and noted the level of creak present through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of six films: three in which she played an American and three in which she took on an English (UK) accent. Acoustic data evaluation involved coding for creak on syllabic nuclei and carrying out a statistical analysis to determine significant influences on the pattern we observed. Our qualitative analysis covers the following variables: character traits and personality, time period in which the film is set, and the age of Johansson’s character. Results showed that there was significantly more creak in Johansson’s speech while she was performing in an American role, in line with the study previously conducted by Pennock-Speck. Our qualitative findings suggest that creak is modulated at an additional level, indexing seductiveness and intimacy with the interlocutor.
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