The versatility of creaky phonation: Segmental, prosodic, and sociolinguistic uses in the world's languages

Lisa Davidson

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Creaky phonation (also known as creaky voice, vocal fry, laryngealization, or glottalization) is a voice quality that refers to shortened and thickened vocal folds that vibrate at a low and quasi-regular fundamental frequency with a long period of damping. Cross-linguistically, creaky phonation can span either short or long domains. When implemented on individual vowels or consonants (as in Zapotec or Montana Salish), it can signal phonemic contrast with other voice qualities, or it can be an additional acoustic cue to enhance other contrasts, such as tone (as in Mandarin or Cantonese). Another segmental use of creaky phonation in many languages is as a variant of glottal stop. Creaky phonation can also be implemented as a prosodic element that signals the end of a phrase (as in English or Mandarin), or indicates relinquishing a conversational turn (as in Finnish). It can also express meaning in a social interaction, such as irritation (in Vietnamese). Lastly, creaky phonation can be deployed as a sociolinguistic marker to establish identities, convey affect, or distinguish one speech group from another within the same language. In some social circumstances, such as the perception that young women use creaky phonation at greater rates than men do, it can be evaluated negatively by listeners. As creaky phonation can be combined with linguistic elements at various levels and is easily perceptible, it has taken on a remarkable number of roles in our linguistic repertoires. This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere1547
    JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - May 1 2021


    • creaky phonation
    • phonetics
    • prosody
    • sociolinguistics
    • voice quality

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Neuroscience
    • General Psychology


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