Exploring Vocal Paralanguage
(30 minutes)

The voice is an extraordinary human instrument. Every time we speak, our voice reveals our gender, age, geographic background, level of education, native birth, emotional state, and our relationship with the person spoken to. All these clues (and many more) are contained in even small fragments of speech, and other people can "read" our voices with remarkable accuracy. When we speak, we "encode" important information about ourselves; when we listen to others, we can "decode" important information about them.

This video, THE HUMAN VOICE, explores the power and importance of this uniquely human instrument. When we speak, we use words, but we also "perform" these words using the range and subtlety of our voices. Spoken language therefore contains two distinct types of communication: (1) "text" (the words themselves) and (2) "vocal paralanguage", the thousands of ways in which any given words can be said. Text is whatever can be typed on a page. Vocal paralanguage is everything else--intonation, pitch, regional accent, sarcasm, hesitations, truthfulness, emotion, etc.

In THE HUMAN VOICE, we examine twelve different types of "clues" that are contained in human vocal paralanguage. These include important clues to our biography and background, our identity and uniqueness, our use of standard or non-standard speech, our regional and national accents, our emotions and true feelings, our voices when we speak to children, our ability to perform and recognize sarcasm, our efforts to tell if others are telling the truth, and our response to dialects and other variation in vocal paralanguage.

THE HUMAN VOICE explores the richness and power of vocal paralanguage. The video examines provocative questions about the voice. What does our voice reveal about us? Is our paralanguage unique and recognizable? Which accents are preferred and which are disliked? Should people try to abandon their native accents in favor of "standard" pronunciation? How does our voice reveal what we are feeling? Is it text or paralanguage that makes a great speech? How do we "tell" others that we are being sarcastic, and is this pattern universal across cultures? What is "Parentese", the language we speak to children? At what age do children become "skilled" at lying? How should we respond to stuttering and other forms of dysfluency? Are distinctive voices "property"--for example, can advertisers be sued for impersonating famous voices in commercials?

As THE HUMAN VOICE, demonstrates, much is revealed by our speech and our paralanguage. Whether we are conscious of our voices or not, they speak volumes about us--our biography, who we are, how we are feeling, what kind of person we are, and what we really mean. The people we speak to listen not only to the text of what we say but also to the paralanguage with which we say it. Vocal paralanguage is a powerful, subtle, and vital part of human communication. The way we see others--and the way we are seen by them--depends in large part on what is heard in the human voice.


This videotape will be ideal for classes in psychology, sociology, anthropology, communication, speech, linguistics, drama, theatre arts, and multi-cultural studies. THE HUMAN VOICE brings into provocative focus the incomparable gift of human speech. Anyone who sees this video will emerge with a greatly enhanced sense of the power, variety, richness, and importance of the spoken word. THE HUMAN VOICE is available with an INSTRUCTOR'S GUIDE that provides (a) suggested uses of the video, (b) classroom demonstrations designed to show the power of the human voice and our ability to read vocal paralanguage, and (c) background and reference materials on the voice and nonverbal communication.

What reviewers are saying about "THE HUMAN VOICE":

"THE HUMAN VOICE does a great job, touching on all the important topics. Archer's tapes are fast-paced and fun, and they never lecture. He lets the audience absorb the concepts through watching real people behaving. This tape, like A WORLD OF GESTURES, will be a prized addition to teaching materials on nonverbal behavior."
-- Judith A. Hall, Professor of Psychology, Northeastern University, Editor of THE JOURNAL OF NONVERBAL BEHAVIOR

"Dane Archer has done it again! What he did for the study of gestures with his video A WORLD OF GESTURES he has now done for tone of voice with his video THE HUMAN VOICE: Exploring Vocal Paralanguage. Original, informative, and thought-provoking, it is done with flair, with zest, and with great good humor. It should be used successfully in a wide variety of courses in the social sciences and humanities--including courses in psychology, anthropology, and sociology; communication and education; and linguistics, speech, English, theatre, and English as a Second Language. It's a wonderful job!"
-- Robert Rosenthal, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, co-editor, NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IN THE CLINICAL CONTEXT

"I am delighted with THE HUMAN VOICE: EXPLORING VOCAL PARALANGUAGE. This is an exciting and comprehensive videotape, and its style is highly interactive and very engaging. Like Dane Archer's A WORLD OF GESTURES, this videotape is highly entertaining, involving, and witty--an excellent tool for promoting class discussion. Students will love this videotape! In THE HUMAN VOICE, Dane Archer has created another hit and instant classic--this is the 'Gold Standard' for videotapes on nonverbal communication."
-- Robin M. Akert, Professor of Psychology, Wellesley College

"THE HUMAN VOICE is an exceptionally well-conceived video which shows the power and utility of a frequent behavior we all too often take for granted; it is an extraordinary supplement for teachers. Viewers cannot help but get caught up in the excitement and interest communicated by the people in the video. Through the use of real people (of various ages and cultural backgrounds), real voices, and real reactions to the voices, this video evokes real responses from viewers. A rare and special treat."
-- Mark Knapp, Professor of Speech Communication, University of Texas, author of NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IN HUMAN INTERACTION

"Just what I was looking for--a video that captures the complexity and intrigue of the human voice in a provocative way. THE HUMAN VOICE will be a valuable teaching tool in classes in diverse disciplines such as psychology, communications, speech, anthropology, sociolinguistics, etc. This video is also very strong on cultural diversity, and the Instructor's Guide is extremely useful."
-- Bella M. DePaulo, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia, author of "Nonverbal Behavior and Self-Presentation"

"THE HUMAN VOICE is an exciting and well-done film. It should be ideal for arousing interest in students because of the way it captures the different ways we use our voice....one could tell the students were truly interested, involved, and enthusiastic."
-- Edward T. Hall, Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus), Northwestern University, author of THE SILENT LANGUAGE, THE HIDDEN DIMENSION, and AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF EVERYDAY LIFE

"This is an an excellent short film which highlights an important aspect of communication, paralanguage--those aspects conveyed by the human voice outside of language itself. This film answers many questions about human speech and human communication in a most entertaining and enjoyable fashion. I will certainly use the video the next time I teach our Linguistics 1 class and I will suggest it to my colleagues."
-- Victoria A. Fromkin, Professor of Linguistics, UCLA, co-author of AN INTRODUCTION TO LANGUAGE

A very good introduction to an important hitherto neglected topic which raises important questions about the social funtioning of language. I enjoyed it.
-- John Gumperz, Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, author of DISCOURSE STRATEGIES