International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 22, No 1 (2015)

Disfluencies in the speech of intoxicated speakers

Florian Schiel, Christian Heinrich
Issued Date: 8 Jul 2015


Our hypothesis is that speakers under the influence of alcohol produce more linguistic/phonetic errors because of the negative effect of ethanol on cognitive processes and speech motor control. We examined the speech of 150 German speakers of both genders with regard to rates of 6 types of disfluencies and 2 durational measures. The intoxication of speakers ranged from 0.050% to 0.175% blood alcohol concentration; other factors investigated are speaker gender and speaking style (read, spontaneous, command&control). We found that most rates of disfluencies as well as durations increase with intoxication – but not for command&control speech; gender has no influence; individual speakers deviate from the general trend frequently. We conclude that for forensic investigations disfluency rates should be applied with greatest care (i.e. individual speaker only), and command&control speech as typically used in automotive systems is not suitable for the automatic detection of intoxication on the basis of disfluency rates.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 ) HTML (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v22i1.24767


Behne, D. M., Rivera, S. M. and Pisoni, D.B. (1991) Effects of alcohol on speech: durations of isolated words, sentences and passages. Research on Speech Perception 17: 285–301.

Braun, A. (1991) Speaking while intoxicated: phonetic and forensic aspects. Proceedings of the XIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Aix-en-Provence: 146–149.

Bortfeld, H., Leon, S., Bloom, J., Schober, M. and Brennan, S. (2001) Disfluency rates in conversation: effects of age, relationship, topic, role, and gender. Language and Speech 44: 123–147.

Burger, S., Weilhammer, K., Schiel, F. and Tillmann, H. G. (2000) Verbmobil data collection and annotation. In W. Wahlster (ed.) Verbmobil: Foundations of Speech-to-Speech Translation 539–551. Berlin: Springer.

Christenfeld, N. and Creager, B. (1996) Anxiety, alcohol, aphasia and ums. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70: 451–460.

Clark, H. H. and Fox Tree, J. E. (2002) Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking. Cognition 84: 73–111.

Cooney, O. M., McGuigan, K., Murphy, P. and Conroy, R. (1998) Acoustic analysis of the effects of alcohol on the human voice. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 103: 2895.

Dawson, D. and Reid, K. (1997) Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature 388: 235.

Dobson, A. J. (1990) An Introduction to Generalized Linear Models. London: Chapman and Hall.

Draxler, C. (2005) WebTranscribe – an extensible web-based speech annotation framework. Proceedings of TSD 2005: 61–68.

Heinrich, C. and Schiel, F. (2011) Estimating speaking rate by means of rhythmicity parameters. Proceedings of the Interspeech 2011: 1873–1876.

Hollien, H., DeJong, G., Martin, C. A., Schwartz, R. and Liljegren, K. (2001) Effects of ethanol intoxication on speech suprasegmentals. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 110: 3198–3206.

Hollien, H., Liljegren, K., Martin, C. A. and DeJong, G. (1999) Prediction of intoxication levels by speech analysis. In A. Braun (ed.) Advances in Phonetics, 40–50. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag.

Johnson, K., Pisoni, D. B. and Bernacki, R. H. (1990) Do voice recordings reveal whether a person is intoxicated? A case study. Phonetica 41: 215–237.

Klingholz, F., Penning, R. and Liebhardt, E. (1988) Recognition of low-level alcohol intoxication from speech signal. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 84: 929–935.

Künzel, H. J. and Braun, A. (2003) The effect of alcohol on speech prosody. Proceedings of the ICPhS, Barcelona: 2645–2648.

Künzel, H. J., Braun, A. and Eysholdt, U. (1992) Einfluß von Alkohol auf Sprache und Stimme. Heidelberg: Kriminalistik Verlag.

Martin, C. S. and Yuchtman, M. (1986) Using speech as an index of alcohol-intoxication. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 79: 413–426.

Naranjo, C. A. and Bremner, K. E. (1993) Behavioural correlates of alcohol intoxication. Addiction 88(1): 31-41.

Schiel, F. (1999) Automatic phonetic transcription of non-prompted speech. Proceedings of the ICPhS: 607–610.

Schiel, F., Heinrich, C. and Barfüßer, S. (2012) Alcohol language corpus. Language Resources and Evaluation 46 (3): 503–521.

Shriberg, E. E. (2001) To ‘errrr’ is human: ecology and acoustics of speech disfluencies. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 31(1): 153–169.

Tisljár-Szabó, E., Rossu, R., Varga, V. and Pléh, C. (2013) The effect of alcohol on speech production. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 43(6): 737–748.

Trojan, F. and Kryspin-Exner, K. (1968) The decay of articulation under the influence of alcohol and paraldehyde. Folia Phoniatrica 20: 217–238.

Volkow, N. D., Mullani, N., Gould, L., Adler, S. S., Guynn, R. W., Overall, J. E. and Dewey, S. (1988) Effects of acute alcohol intoxication on cerebral blood flow measured with PET. Psychiatry Research 24: 201–209.

Watanabe, H., Shin, T., Matsuo, H., Okuno, F., Tsuji, T., Matsuoka, M., Fukaura, J. and Matsunaga, H. (1994) Studies on vocal fold injection and changes in pitch associated with alcohol intake. Journal of Voice 8: 340–346.

Watson, P. E., Watson, I. D. and Batt, R. D. (1980) Total body water volumes for adult males and females estimated from simple anthropometric measurements. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 33(1): 27–39.

Widmark, E. M. P. (1932) Die theoretischen Grundlagen und die praktische Verwendbarkeit der gerichtlich-medizinischen Alkoholbestimmung. Berlin: Urban und Schwarzenberg.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy