Exploring Vocal Paralanguage
(30 minutes)


Picture of Speaker

QUESTION: In The Human Voice video, we hear the voice of the man in this picture. The man counts from 1 to 20, but says nothing else. If your computer and browser are capable of playing sound, you can download this man's speech and hear it for yourself:

The viewer is asked to guess where the man grew up:

a. Chicago
b. New York
c. Seattle


Geographic clues are only ONE of many messages contained in our voices. Our vocal paralanguage consists of all cues other than the text of the words we use. Everything else is vocal paralanguage and this includes a very LARGE number of potentially important clues: pronunciation, national accent, regional accent, fluency or dysfluency, standard or non-standard speech, whether the language we speak was our native tongue, emotion, charisma, indications of our relationship with the listener, sarcasm, deference, contempt, truth or deception, etc.

THE HUMAN VOICE explores the ways in which our voices communicate important clues about who we are and what we feel--and these clues slip out whether we want them to or not. Vocal paralanguage is extremely subtle, but the clues in our voices are clear and legible. This makes vocal paralanguage one of the most powerful 'channels' of nonverbal communication, and the power of the voice is celebrated and explored in THE HUMAN VOICE.