A Study in Scarlett: Creaky Voice and Romantic Intention in Spike Jonze’s Her


  • Joachim Jelle Aarhus University




non-modal phonation, creaky voice, vocal fry, desirability, romantic effort, Scarlett Johansson, Her, English Linguistics 3


Research indicates that women may use creaky voice to increase their own perceived romantic desirability. This auditory analysis of Scarlett Johansson’s use of creaky voice related this specific use of non-modal phonation to her romantic intentions. This was done by looking at four scenes in Spike Jonze’s Her, all of which suggested a different stage in the relationship between the two main characters (Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix). Creakiness in these scenes was assessed by counting the number of clauses in the four scenes as well as the number of creaks in the clauses. It was concluded that a positive correlation exists between the use of creaky voice and the attempt on part of the female speaker to sound desirable. The present study therefore supports the existing literature on the romantic signaling function of creaky voice.


Anderson, Rindy C., Casey A. Klofstad, William J. Mayew, and Mohan Venkatachalam. 2014. “Vocal Fry May Undermine The Success of Young Women in The Labor Market.” PLOS ONE 9 (5): e97506. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097506.

Bell, Allan. 1989. “Language Style as Audience Design.” Sociolinguistics, A Reader and Coursebook, edited by Nikolas Coupland and Adam Jaworski, 240-50. New York: Palgrave.

Gordon, Matthew, and Peter Ladefoged. 2001. “Phonation Types: A Cross-Linguistic Overview.” Journal of Phonetics 29 (4): 383-406. doi:10.1006/jpho.2001.0147.

Liu, X. and Xu, Y. (2011). “What Makes a Female Voice Attractive.” The 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Hong Kong: 1274-1277.

Pennock-Speck, Barry. 2005. “The Changing Voice of Women.” In Actas XXVIII Congreso Internacional AEDEAN, ed. J. J. Calvo García de Leonardo, J. Tronch Pérez, M. del Saz Rubio, C. Manuel Cuenca, B. Pennock Speck, and M. J. Coperías Aguilar, 407–414. academia.edu/2471714/The_changing_voice_of_women.

Redi, Laura, and Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel. 2001. “Variation in the Realization of Glottalization in Normal Speakers.” Journal of Phonetics 29 (4): 407-429. doi:10.1006/jpho.2001.0145.

Shaw, Francesca, and Victoria Crocker. 2015. “Creaky Voice as a Stylistic Feature of Young American Female Speech: An Intraspeaker Variation Study of Scarlett Johansson.” Lifespans and Styles 1 (0): 21. doi:10.2218/ls.v1i0.2015.1180.

Wolk, Lesley, Nassima B. Abdelli-Beruh, and Dianne Slavin. 2012. “Habitual Use of Vocal Fry in Young Adult Female Speakers.” Journal of Voice 26 (3): 111-116. doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2011.04.007.

Yuasa, Ikuko P. 2010. “Creaky Voice: A New Feminine Voice Quality for Young Urban-Oriented Upwardly Mobile American Women?” American Speech 85: 315–337.




How to Cite

Jelle, J. (2017). A Study in Scarlett: Creaky Voice and Romantic Intention in Spike Jonze’s Her. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (1). https://doi.org/10.7146/lev.v0i1.96789