Neutral voices in audio descriptions: What does it mean?

María Jesús Machuca, Anna Matamala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


A neutral delivery has often been considered to be the norm in audio description, but it is unclear what a ‘neutral voice’ means. This article begins with a discussion of neutrality in prosody and with a contextualization of AD voicing. It then presents an acoustic analysis of a corpus of audio descriptions in Catalan, English, and Spanish. Based on the results of this analysis, a perception test is designed, and its results are discussed here. The perception test involves participants with sight loss (31 in Spanish, 35 in Catalan, 40 in English) and without sight loss (29 in Spanish, 46 in Catalan, 31 in English) who are asked to define what a neutral voice is for them. Respondents are also asked to select the male and female voices that they consider most neutral. The qualitative analysis of the replies, together with the selection made by participants for both male and female voices across three different languages, sheds some light on how neutrality (or non-neutrality) could be defined. The study does not aim to determine what acoustic features voices should have in the context of audio description but tries to better understand what a neutral voice is, considering that this has traditionally been a frequent expression in research on audio description delivery.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBabel. Revue internationale de la traduction / International Journal of Translation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2022

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