The tell-tale accent: Identification of regionally marked speech in German telephone conversations by forensic phoneticians

Authors

  • Olaf Köster Bundeskriminalamt
  • Roland Kehrein Research Centre Deutscher Sprachatlas
  • Karen Masthoff University of Trier
  • Yasmin Hadj Boubaker University of Trier

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.v19i1.51

Keywords:

forensic speaker identification, dialect, regional accent, aural perception, dialect database

Abstract

One of the most significant features in forensic phonetics used to identify a speaker is his or her so-called regional accent. In a speaker profiling task, German experts for voice comparison were evaluated concerning their performance and their methodological approach in accent identification. As a result, the experts as a group performed well; only very few severe confusions of regional accents occurred. Results also showed that the experts applied different strategies in identifying a speaker´s regional accent; the different methods were (a) aural-perceptual analysis, (b) acoustic analysis, (c) consultation of audio databases, and (d) consultation of literature on dialects. Participants also differed considerably in the amount of time they needed to complete the task. The most important finding is that no correlations existed between the performance (i.e. error rate) of the participants and (a) the time spent, (b) the number of methods applied, (c) the kind of method applied or (d) the perceived degree of difficulty. This leads to the conclusion that the performance in dialect identification may predominantly depend on the individual (innate or trained) skills of the expert in speaker identification.

Author Biographies

Olaf Köster, Bundeskriminalamt

Olaf Köster received his MA in phonetics and German philology (1994) and his PhD (1997) from the University of Trier. He works as an expert in speaker recognition and audio analysis at the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA). Besides casework and research he teaches police officers, junior judges and junior public prosecutors in speaker identification. Before joining the BKA he worked as a lecturer of German phonetics for speakers of German as a foreign language and as a teacher of phonetics at a school of logopedics. His research interests focus on forensic phonetics, aural perception, articulation and voice quality.

Roland Kehrein, Research Centre Deutscher Sprachatlas

Roland Kehrein received his MA in German Philology and Linguistics from the University of Mainz (1996). Since 1996 he has been working as lecturer and researcher for all fields of linguistics at the University of Greifswald and at the Research Centre Deutscher Sprachatlas in Marburg. He received his PhD from the University of Greifswald (2001) and has recently finished his post doctoral thesis (Habilitation) about the variation space between standard German and the local dialects in Germany.

Karen Masthoff, University of Trier

Karen Masthoff is a student of Phonetics and Linguistics at the University of Trier. She is currently preparing her MA thesis in phonetics. Her research interests mainly focus on forensic speaker identification. She has completed internships in speaker identification at the BKA, the State Criminal Office in Berlin and the State Criminal Office in Brandenburg.

Yasmin Hadj Boubaker, University of Trier

Yasmin Hadj Boubaker is a PhD-student of Phonetics and Pedagogy at the University of Trier. She has recently finished her MA thesis in phonetics of Tunisian Arabic and is currently working on her PhD-thesis. She completed internships in speaker identification at the BKA, the State Criminal Office in Berlin and the State Criminal Office in Brandenburg.

Published

2012-06-22

How to Cite

Köster, O., Kehrein, R., Masthoff, K., & Boubaker, Y. H. (2012). The tell-tale accent: Identification of regionally marked speech in German telephone conversations by forensic phoneticians. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 19(1), 51–71. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.v19i1.51

Issue

Section

Articles