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The female vocal tract is optimally designed for speaking clearly. These are the findings of research by Bart de Boer, a researcher at the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), which were published in the Journal of Phonetics on 16 November 2010.

The female vocal tract is optimally designed for speaking clearly. The anatomy of men is slightly less well-suited for this purpose. These are the findings of research by Bart de Boer, a researcher at the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), which were published in the Journal of Phonetics on 16 November 2010.

De Boer used computer models to examine the influence of the position of the larynx on the clarity of speech. He did this by using a model of the human vocal tract to measure how many different sounds can be made there. It appeared that the female anatomy is optimally built for making many different speech sounds. The anatomy of apes (with their higher larynx) is considerably worse, and the anatomy of men (with an extra larynx layer) is a little bit worse.

Evolution of speech

An important difference between humans and apes is that the larynx is much higher in monkeys. The larynx is lower in women than in apes, and even lower in men. The theory that the human vocal tract is optimally designed for speech is an old idea, but it has so far been assumed - without proof - that the male vocal tract is best. The research findings of UvA scientist Boyer demonstrating that the female voice channel is optimised for speech, supports the theory that it evolved for speech. He explains that the lower larynx in men helps them sound larger and, therefore, more impressive. Other research suggests that this makes a particular impression on other men.

Publication Details

Bart de Boer: ‘Investigating the acoustic effect of the descended larynx with articulatory models', in: Journal of Phonetics, online publication November 16, 2010.