Basically, the recent segment was full of misinformation regarding both accents and "vocal fry". Here's the original interview for reference.
Some salient points from the letter:
- 1. Straight people convey sexuality in their voice too
We know from decades of linguistic research that all people express themselves in ways that can convey an affiliation with a particular group or identity. We know that gender identity, sexual orientation, regional background, socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic affiliation, level of education, age, political beliefs, and many other social categories can be indexed through manipulations of voice quality, pitch, rhythm, vowel quality, consonant articulation, etc. Crucially, it’s not just the minorities of these categories who use such features; majority groups make use of these indexical features as well. For example, straight male speakers of American English are known to have deeper voices than straight male speakers of many other languages; even prepubescent boys in the US have been documented to have significantly lower pitch than girls of the same age, even though the two groups are physiologically indistinguishable in their throats. This trend has been getting more extreme since the 1960s, with American boys getting deeper and deeper voices with each generation.
- Endless popular articles and podcasts (and your interview) describe “vocal fry” as a deviation from a natural voice quality, that it can be physiologically harmful to the vocal folds, that it grates on the ears, that it’s a “style” coming from singers of pop music, and that it should be avoided in order to be successful in life. None of these claims has any basis in reality. In truth, these voice qualities are used extensively in languages like Danish, Vietnamese, Burmese, Hmong, and many indigenous languages of Mexico and Central America (such as Zapotec, Mazatec, and Yukatek Maya), far more than they are in English – and as you might imagine, speakers of those languages do not suffer from medical problems in the throat any more than speakers of other languages. (I have no idea where Ms. Sankin got the idea that this is causing medical problems in the US; that’s simply untrue.) Those languages are just as “natural” as English is.