Idenfication of voices in shouting


  • Helen Blatchford City University, London
  • Paul Foulkes J.P. French Associates and University of York



lay witness, speaker identification, shouting, familiar voices


Two experiments were carried out to assess the ability of lay listeners to identify familiar voices from shouted samples. The experiments were conducted after a murder case in which a witness claimed to recognise the voice of a masked gunman based on two shouted words: get him! Our experiments were designed to explore the extent to which a listener can identify a known voice from a shouted sample, and also whether a two word sample is sufficient for identification. Recordings were obtained from a group of nine females who formed a close social network, plus six foils. Two shouted utterances were extracted for listening tests: for Test 1, ‘get him!’, and for Test 2, ‘face down on the ground and hands behind your back now!’ Thirteen listeners from the same social network participated in the tests. Listeners correctly identified familiar speakers in 52% of cases in Test 1 and 81% in Test 2. There was considerable variation in results across listeners, and also with respect to individual voices. The results suggest that recognition of shouted voices is far from perfect, even in closed tests carried out among a close network. The variability in performance emphasises the need to subject a witness’s ability to identify a voice in a forensic case to formal testing wherever this is feasible.

Author Biographies

Helen Blatchford, City University, London

Helen Blatchford first developed an interest in forensic phonetics whilst studying for a BA in French and Linguistics at The University of York. She is currently in the second year of an MSc course in Speech and Language Therapy at City University, where she has been fortunate enough to continue her interest in the subject, working with Allen Hirson on forensic case material.

Paul Foulkes, J.P. French Associates and University of York

Paul Foulkes is a Reader in the Department of Language and Linguistics Science at the University of Yrok. He holds the dgress of MA, MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge, and previously held academic posts at the University of Cambridge, Newcastle and Leeds. As well as forensic phonetics he has research interests in sociolinguistics, language variation and change, experimental phonetics, phonology, and child language acquisition. His publications include the edited volume Urban Voices and articles in Language, Journal of Phonetics, Journal of Sociolinguistics, Language and Speech, Journal of Linguistics, Phonology and the Laboratory Phonology book series. He undertakes forensic case work with J.P. French Associates, with whom he is spending the academic year 2006-7 as a full time consultant before returning to York as director of the Msc in Forensic Speech Science. Department of Language and Linguistic Science University of York York YO10 5DD UK



How to Cite

Blatchford, H., & Foulkes, P. (2006). Idenfication of voices in shouting. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 13(2), 241–254.




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