Adventures In The Human Voice Essay, Research Paper
Adventures with the Human Voice…The voice is an amazing 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 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.Spoken language contains “vocal paralanguage”, the thousands of ways in which any given words can be said. Vocal paralanguage is everything else intonation, pitch, accent, sarcasm, truthfulness, and emotion. Much is revealed by our speech and our paralanguage. Whether we are conscious of our voices or not, they speak about 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, 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 voice. For the purpose of this exercise, I attempted to analyze six different situations in which people and animals have used their voices effectively through language and “sound making.”1) I have recently talked to a friend of mine who is also a car mechanic from Germany. My car needs some work so I asked him to take a look. Even though he is not fluent in English I could still make out most of what he was saying because of his great vocal skills. Rheiner made sure to repeat certain technical words that I hardly know of. Furthermore, we talked at a pace that both of us would understand what the other one was saying. Because of the language barrier, it was vital for us to clearly and slowly talk to each other. Although I do not speak German, I was quite able to pick out what he was saying by following his audible punctuation. Whenever he asked his wife a question he would speed up at the end, and then make a sharp pause before continuing with the conversation. One other thing that I was able to pick up was that his voice carried through the air. I m not sure if this is true of all German speakers, but it seemed like their voices were sharp, deep, and commanding.2) Walking through Wal-Mart on Monday, I noticed how children can be very clever in the way they try to bargain with their parents to buy them certain things. This one boy was particularly interesting in how he was able to use his voice to get what he wanted. It happened when he wanted to go on a ride in one of those coin machines that spin. Anyhow, at first he used a normal kids voice to ask his mother for the ride. When that failed he then tried to convince her by raising his pitch of tone. He repeated words such as “please mommy” and “come on.” At the time, Wow! it really sounded sincere. Finally he broke out screaming and yelling to get what he wanted. I thought about all this as it was going on, and I really do not know how the boy knew that raising his pitch would sound more convincing. I guess somehow it is encoded in our genes that it is effective. The store was pretty crowded at that time, and the kid made sure to use this to his advantage. He made certain that other people were aware of how “terrible” of a parent his mother seemed to be. His voice carried and the boy definitely made a scene.
3) On Sunday my family and I went to mass. On this occasion I particularly paid attention to the way the priest carried the proceedings. His voice was very soft; he used a variety of rhythms and sounded very “peaceful.” In church, the walls are thick and the sound echoes. Even when the priest spoke quietly to the alter boys I could still hear what he was saying. Throughout the entire mass it was very apparent that the priest believed deeply in his message. It was not really what he said that was so moving, but the way he said it. His voice carried a certain omniscience in the air.4) I usually go to the park with my dog every afternoon. There is a family area where sometimes people have picnics. Not too far from where I was standing there was an older couple sitting on a bench having a conversation. I did not want to look suspicious so I stood there throwing a ball to my dog who chased it up and down the hill. The soundscape was pretty loud with leaves brushing and a strong wind blowing. I tried to listen in to what the two people were talking about so I got a little closer. They talked about shopping, mentioned some names, and discussed some trip they were going to take. It was especially noticeable that the older woman was sick. Her voice was quieter and somehow sounded tired. She would make long pauses after each comment, and talked at a steady speed. The gentleman was more in tuned with the conversation. His voice was deep and commanding, it carried some authority with it. Somehow I imagined that he was a lawyer or some kind of administrator. He had a Scottish or Irish accent that together with the strong wind and hilly landscape made me feel like I was in Scotland.5) Normally I would not say that my dog is capable of speech but in some situations he comes close. I have two floors in my townhouse, and the dog is not allowed to go up the stairs. Sometimes when he really wants to come up, he will make a very loud squeaky bark to draw my attention. He will continue to change the pitch of his bark until I let him up or yell. In some strange way, he has the ability and knows how to control his bark to fit a given situation. I talked to my friends who also have pets and they tell me similar stories. I m not saying my dog is extraordinary, but he is smart enough to figure out effective sound making techniques to fit his purposes. He knows that a deep commanding bark will not get him anywhere, but when he raises the pitch (just like the boy in the mall) it usually works on me and I let him up.6) Last weekend a couple of my friends and I decided to drive to Seattle for some sightseeing. I noticed that in a group of males we “sounded” much different than if we were accompanied by women. When we had a conversation it seemed like everyone tried to make his presence felt. It was like a competition of who had more of a commanding voice. Perhaps we tried to sound “cocky”, I do not know, but the testosterone levels were definitely high. My own voice was more different than when I speak to my parents or even my girlfriend. I do not really know how to describe this, but I guess I tried to make my presence felt and through my paralanguage exhibit those characteristics. Generally speaking, when men are together in a group their voices and attitudes change. In our case this was also true. Finally when I came home to my girlfriend my voice changed again.