Dr. Michal Temkin Martínez
This phonetic study examines differences in perceived pitch (fundamental frequency) between Spanish and English within Spanish/English bilingual speakers. Sound is fundamentally air pressure bouncing off of our eardrums creating vibrations. The rate of these vibrations results in our perception of pitch. The two central questions guiding the analysis of pitch difference of Spanish and English in the current study are: (1) Is there a significant difference in the fundamental frequencies of Spanish and English within an individual speaker? (2) Do the mean frequencies of these two languages change when bilinguals code-switch? Previous studies of the differences in fundamental frequency of English/Russian bilinguals and English/Cantonese bilingual speakers indicate that, while the fundamental frequency of Russian was consistently higher than the fundamental frequency of English in English/Russian bilinguals, the Cantonese fundamental frequency did not differ significantly from that of English in English/Cantonese bilinguals (Altenberg and Ferrand 2006).
In the current study, four Spanish/English female bilinguals whose first language is Spanish were recorded. Acoustic measurements were taken for three segments of Spanish and three segments of English for each participant, with each segment averaging three seconds in length. Results indicate that the difference in fundamental frequency between Spanish and English is statistically significant, with Spanish having an overall higher pitch than English. The data gathered, however, proved to be insufficient to analyze differences in fundamental frequencies during code-switching adequately for such a test.
Altenberg EP, Ferrand CT. “Fundamental frequency in monolingual English, bilingual English/Russian, and bilingual English/Cantonese young adult women.” Journal of Voice. 2006 Mar;20(1):89-96.