In previous research, acoustic characteristics of the male voice have been shown to signal various aspects of mate quality and threat potential. But the human voice is also a medium of linguistic communication. The present study explores whether physical and vocal indicators of male mate quality and threat potential are linked to effective communicative behaviors such as vowel differentiation and use of more salient phonetic variants of consonants. We show that physical and vocal indicators of male threat potential, height and formant position, are negatively linked to vowel space size, and that height and levels of circulating testosterone are negatively linked to the use of the aspirated variant of the alveolar stop consonant /t/. Thus, taller, more masculine men display less clarity in their speech and prefer phonetic variants that may be associated with masculine attributes such as toughness. These findings suggest that vocal signals of men’s mate quality and/or dominance are not confined to the realm of voice acoustics but extend to other aspects of communicative behavior, even if this means a trade-off with speech patterns that are considered communicatively advantageous, such as clarity and indexical cues to higher social class.
- Vowel space
- Sex differences