Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 1042-1051

First online:

Recognizing vocal emotions in Mandarin Chinese: A validated database of Chinese vocal emotional stimuli

  • Pan LiuAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University Email author 
  • , Marc D. PellAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University


To establish a valid database of vocal emotional stimuli in Mandarin Chinese, a set of Chinese pseudosentences (i.e., semantically meaningless sentences that resembled real Chinese) were produced by four native Mandarin speakers to express seven emotional meanings: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, pleasant surprise, and neutrality. These expressions were identified by a group of native Mandarin listeners in a seven-alternative forced choice task, and items reaching a recognition rate of at least three times chance performance in the seven-choice task were selected as a valid database and then subjected to acoustic analysis. The results demonstrated expected variations in both perceptual and acoustic patterns of the seven vocal emotions in Mandarin. For instance, fear, anger, sadness, and neutrality were associated with relatively high recognition, whereas happiness, disgust, and pleasant surprise were recognized less accurately. Acoustically, anger and pleasant surprise exhibited relatively high mean f0 values and large variation in f0 and amplitude; in contrast, sadness, disgust, fear, and neutrality exhibited relatively low mean f0 values and small amplitude variations, and happiness exhibited a moderate mean f0 value and f0 variation. Emotional expressions varied systematically in speech rate and harmonics-to-noise ratio values as well. This validated database is available to the research community and will contribute to future studies of emotional prosody for a number of purposes. To access the database, please contact


Speech production Emotion recognition Prosody Acoustic features Cross-cultural studies