I’m looking at the section on prosody in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. It goes through the standard aspects of prosody – intonation, rhythm, loudness, etc, and then there’s a box at the side which talks about the “paralinguistic” uses of prosody, or the way that you can use those features of spoken language to send messages ‘alongside’ the actual words you speak (in much the same way as body language does).
So far, so uncontroversial, but I did have a question about one of the examples which was given to illustrate the use of ‘voice quality’:
The following examples of paralinguistic effects are accompanied by a gloss indicating the context in which they commonly occur.
* whisper – secrecy or conspiracy
* breathiness – deep emotion or sexual desire
* huskiness – unimportance or disparagement
* nasality – anxiety
* extra lip rounding – intimacy (especially to animals and babies).
Did anyone else think that nasality wasn’t particularly closely connected with anxiety? or is it just me?
Presumably part of the problem is that the distinctions between, say, breathiness and huskiness, is left to the reader’s own impressions, and I think it’s fairly well recognised that ordinary language users can classify a startlingly wide range of speech phenomena as being “nasal,” even when acoustically and articulatorily there’s no nasality to be found. (The air coming out of the lungs in speech production flows out either by your mouth or by your nose – if it’s flowing through the nasal cavity, that’s when the sounds are nasal. It happens automatically with sounds like m, n, ng, but the suggestion here is that nasality would characterise a much larger stretch of speech as produced by an anxious person.)
It could well be a lack of imagination on my part, but I would be grateful if anyone could explain what might have been behind this claim.
David Crystal (1995), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, p248-249