LINGUIST List 7.1106

Sun Aug 4 1996

Disc: Race and accent

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Charlie Rowe, re:; 7.1090 Race and accent

Message 1: re:; 7.1090 Race and accent

Date: Fri, 02 Aug 1996 13:22:19 EDT
From: Charlie Rowe <>
Subject: re:; 7.1090 Race and accent
My guess is that the FBI intended that the caller could not be
positively identified as female or black,and that the voice
characteristics mirrored the typical common-denominator features of
(American) white male speech.
While it is true that some African Americans do not speak AAVE or can
code shift out of it, an AAVE speaker can likely be positively
identified by several characteristics in most cases. The danger here as
I see it is in the phrase "in most cases": There are some dialects of
the South (e.g., in New Orleans) in which it would be very difficult to
distinguish a white male from an African American male.
If the voice print the FBI uses is computer-analysed, however, (as I
assume it is), it may be the case that other acoustic features (such as
voice timbre, etc.) are scrutinized in order to further distinguish the
speech varieties. To what extent such acoustic features can positively
identify race, I am not certain.

Charlie Rowe
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