Do voice recordings reveal whether a person is intoxicated? A case study

Keith Johnson, David B. Pisoni, Robert H. Bernacki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


In this report we consider the possibility that speech analysis techniques may be used to determine whether an individual was intoxicated at the time that a voice recording was made, and discuss an analysis of the speech produced by the captain of the Exxon Valdez recorded at several points around the time of the accident at Prince William Sound, Alaska. A review of previous research on the effects of alcohol and other effects on speech production suggests that it may be possible to attribute a certain, unique pattern of changes in speech to the influence of alcohol. However, the rate of occurrence of this pattern or the reliability of a decision based on observations such as these is not known. Acoustic-phonetic analysis of a small number of tokens of Captain Hazelwood’s speech recorded before, during and after the accident revealed a number of changes in speech behavior which are similar to the pattern of changes observed in previous laboratory-based research on the effects of alcohol on speech production. We conclude with a discussion of the limitations in making inferences concerning the state of the speaker upon the basis of phonetic data and then discuss several possible explanations of the pattern of change found in the recordings of Captain Hazelwood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-237
Number of pages23
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Linguistics and Language

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