Speaker identification using laughter in a close social network


  • Elliott Land University of York
  • Erica Gold University of Huddersfield






Forensically relevant research on laughter is extremely limited in the literature; however, experts have reported analysing laughter in forensic speaker comparison casework (Gold and French 2011). This article describes a preliminary investigation into the potential speaker-specificity of laughter. A close social network of seven undergraduate university students took part in an open speaker identification task containing 4-second samples of their laughter. Overall, the network members performed much worse than in a similar study using speech samples (see Foulkes and Barron 2000), as each network member identified only one speaker correctly. The largest number of correct identifications of any speaker was three, while another three of the network members were never correctly identified. Previous studies that have also investigated laughter using voice line-ups have reported higher identification rates (Philippon, Randall and Cherryman 2013; Yarmey 2004). The differences between the results of the present study and previous studies may be explained by qualitative and quantitative differences in the laughter samples used, particularly differences in voicing and sample length. This suggests that longer samples of specifically voiced laughter may facilitate higher naïve speaker identification rates. Further research is still needed on the possible speaker-specificity of voiced laughter but it may have the potential to be developed for use as a speaker discriminant in forensic phonetic casework.

Author Biographies

Elliott Land, University of York

Elliott Land is a postgraduate student at the University of York, where he is currently studying the MSc in Forensic Speech Science programme. He holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Linguistics from the University of Huddersfield. He is also a research assistant on the WYRED Project (funded by the ESRC, ES/N003268/1).

Erica Gold, University of Huddersfield

Erica Gold is a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Speech Science at the University of Huddersfield. Erica holds an MSc and PhD in Forensic Speech Science from the University of York, and a BA in Linguistics from the University of California San Diego. She is currently the Principal Investigator on the West Yorkshire Regional English Database (WYRED) Project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/N003268/1), where she is collecting the largest forensically-relevant English database.


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How to Cite

Land, E., & Gold, E. (2017). Speaker identification using laughter in a close social network. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 24(2), 201–225. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.34552