gender voice variants

Michael Everson everson at
Fri Dec 21 10:40:18 CET 2012

On 20 Dec 2012, at 23:02, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:

>>> It has already been shown that [the sex of speakers and listeners] does affect [the choice of words, grammatical forms, etc.] in all
>>> languages, though the degree varies.  I believe it's therefore appropriate to encode it within, rather than just alongside, the language variety system.
>> Why, exactly?
> Because I believe it to be similar in character to the things we already encode as language variants that do not affect intelligibility that much, but are important to distinguish in some cases.  

I'm pretty sure our variants are mostly orthographical and do not deal with word-choice-type content.

> Looking over the subtag registry, I find the distinctions represented there are: like the speaker's or writer's point of origin, the period of use, the writer's spelling conventions, and the use of unusual terminology.

All of those are subsumed under "identifiable orthography". 

> (Indeed, when this discussion dies down, I think we should next look at formality levels, if only on an oversimplified formal/informal
> basis, with additional details (if needed for, say, Javanese) left for language-specific subtags.)

Because it's good to make work for ourselves? I recall you grousing at me for wanting to be completist at times. ;-)

>> <lang>
>> <speaker>
>> <audience>
> I would not advocate tags like 'cowan' for how I talk vs. 'everson' for how you talk: the differences are vague, evanescent, and uncodified.

Sorry, this is completely non-sequitur. No one has suggested such things. 

> But the same is not true for the sex-based variations we are discussing today, which are exceedingly well-understood matters appropriate to every language, though the details vary, as does the overall importance of the distinctions.

This does not respond to my suggestion that such distinctions might be best left to other tagging levels, such as <speaker> or <audience>.

>>> I propose that we have four tags spkrmale, spkrfeml, targmale, targfeml.
>> What about children?
> Children are, the last I looked, either male or female in their speech habits; indeed, those habits are laid down in childhood.

But they have children's voices, not adults' voices. I can choose the language of my software interface and I can choose the voice it speaks to me in. I prefer a male voice. But I might prefer a child's voice if I were a child. (Or I might prefer a woman's voice if it were Majel Barrett Roddenberry.)

Michael Everson *

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