The purpose of this study was to determine whether 20 listeners could identify the gender of 10 preadolescent children from speech samples. An additional aim was to evaluate whether listeners identified children more accurately when listening to speech samples when more linguistic context was available. The listeners were presented with a total of 190 speech samples in four different categories of linguistic context: segments, words, sentences, and discourse. The listeners were instructed to listen to each speech sample and decide whether the speaker was a male or female. In addition, the listeners were instructed to rate their level of confidence in their decision on a 1-10 scale. Results showed listeners identified the gender of the speakers with a high degree of accuracy, ranging from 86% to 95%. In addition, statistical analysis showed significant differences in the accuracy of listener judgments among the four levels of linguistic context, with segments having the lowest (83%) and discourse the highest accuracy (99%). At the segmental level, the listeners' ability to identify the each speaker's gender from a speech sample was greater for vowels than for fricatives, with both types of phoneme being identified at a rate well above chance. Significant differences in identification were found between the /s/ and /ʃ/ fricatives, but not between the four corner vowels. The perception of gender is likely multifactorial, with listeners possibly using phonetic, prosodic, or stylistic speech cues to determine a speaker's gender.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





gender, dimorphism, speech perception, segmental, suprasegmental