Voice Quality / Set
A term used in phonetics to refer to the permanently present, background, person-identifying feature of speech. All phonetic features contribute to this notion: an individual’s voice quality derives from a combination of such factors as pitch height, loudness level, tempo and timbre of speaking. Labels for the many qualities that can be produced tend to be impressionistic and ambiguous, e.g. a ‘cheery’, ‘haughty’, ‘sullen’ voice. A terminological problem also arises because such labels may be used both in a non-linguistic way (as described above) and in a linguistic or paralinguistic context, as when someone who normally does not have a voice one would call ‘sullen’ deliberately adopts such a voice to communicate a particular emotional state. To classify such latter effects, terms such as voice qualifier or ‘paralinguistic feature’ are available, but ‘voice quality’ is also commonly used.