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College of Education, Information and Technology

Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, Assistant Professor of Education
Dianne Slavin, Professor of Education and Chair
Lesley Wolk, Associate Professor of Education

Speech Pathologists Study “Vocal Fry” Fad Among Young Women

Speech and HearingLIU Post researchers Lesley Wolk, Nassima Abdelli-Beruh and Dianne Slavin are studying an interesting trend in the speech pattern of college women who speak American English: they frequently use vocal fry. "Vocal fry" occurs when a person inserts a low, creaky vibration into their speech when they talk.

The research team recorded the speech of 34 women, ages 18-25, and found that more than two-thirds of them used the popcorn-like sound or creak when they spoke, particularly at the end of their sentences. The findings were published in The Journal of Voice.

Vocal fry is not a new speech pattern. It can occur in the speech of individuals devoid of a voice disorder, and is believed to serve an array of linguistic purposes such as marking the end of sentences, signaling turn-taking and conveying authority. It is detectable in the voices of radio news broadcasters (Melissa Block), movie stars (Reese Witherspoon), pop stars (Ke$ha and Britney Spears), and TV celebrities (Kim Kardashian, pictured).

"It is not clear whether vocal fry is used consciously by college students, but it is used variably by American actresses depending on the scene and the character portrayed," said Dr. Abdelli-Beruh. "A pronounced use of vocal fry is bound to catch the attention of the listeners, and it is may be a way for speakers to identify with members of a group."

While men and women are both able to produce vocal fry, a second study conducted by the LIU Post team found that male college American English speakers don't use vocal fry as frequently as their female peers. Interestingly, the trend is the opposite in some dialects of British English, suggesting the influence of socio-cultural factors.