Decoding speech prosody in five languages

William Forde Thompson, L. L. Balkwill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


Twenty English-speaking listeners judged the emotive intent of utterances spoken by male and female speakers of English, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Tagalog. The verbal content of utterances was neutral but prosodic elements conveyed each of four emotions: joy, anger, sadness, and fear. Identification accuracy was above chance performance levels for all emotions in all languages. Across languages, sadness and anger were more accurately recognized than joy and fear. Listeners showed an in-group advantage for decoding emotional prosody, with highest recognition rates for English utterances and lowest recognition rates for Japanese and Chinese utterances. Acoustic properties of stimuli were correlated with the intended emotion expressed. Our results support the view that emotional prosody is decoded by a combination of universal and culture-specific cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-424
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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