Science Focus Podcast: To become Prime Minister, change your voice © Getty Images

To become Prime Minister, change your voice

Your voice – its pitch, intonation and accent – is a huge part of your personal identity. Trevor Cox is talking to us about the full range of human speech, and how technology’s changing the conversation.

If you’ve ever felt the shock of hearing your own voice played back to you, you’ll realise how important your voice is to your identity. We judge others based on their pitch, intonation and accent, and even use that to decide whether or not to trust them.

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In his new book, Now You’re Talking: Human Conversation from Neanderthals to Artificial Intelligence (£20, The Bodley Head), Trevor Cox has traced speech from its beginnings in Neanderthals all the way through to its adoption by machines. He’ll explain the development of speech in the womb and why the mother’s voice is so important, and he’ll look at the voice in old age and tell us why we should all be joining choirs.

Vocal training is an important tool for a lot of people, like politicians trying to become more appealing, and people developing a new voice after a gender change. We chat about how that’s being done, and why it’s so difficult. And finally, with the rise of speaking machines, we talk about why people are saying I love you to Alexa, and whether we’ll ever queue up to see robots perform Shakespeare.

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