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Production, perception, and communicative goals of American newscaster speech

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2019

Emily Gasser*
Swarthmore College, USA
Byron Ahn
Princeton University, USA
Donna Jo Napoli
Swarthmore College, USA
Z.L. Zhou
University of California Los Angeles, USA
Address for correspondence: Emily Gasser, Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave, Swarthmore, PA 19081,


Listeners often have the intuition that the speech of broadcast news reporters somehow ‘sounds different’; previous literature supports this observation and has described some distinctive aspects of newscaster register. This article presents two studies further describing the characteristic properties and functions of American English newscaster speech, focusing specifically on prosody. In the first, we investigate the production of newscaster speech. We describe the measurable differences in pitch, speed, intensity, and melodic features between newscaster and conversational speech, and connect those traits to perceptions of authority, credibility, charisma, and related characteristics. In the second, we investigate the perception of newscaster speech. Our experiments demonstrate that listeners can distinguish newscaster from conversational speech given only prosodic information, and that they use a subset of the newscasters’ distinguishing features to do so. (News, prosody, discourse registers, speech perception, credibility, authority)*

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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Many thanks to Lynne Steuerle Schofield, Kate Collins, Colleen Cotter, Dan Steele, Shuang Guan, and our twelve volunteer readers for their feedback and assistance with this project.



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