Archive for Sunday, July 4, 1999


July 4, 1999


A doctoral student wants to know if it is genes or environment that has the greatest effect on the development of a person's voice.

It sounds musical.

Beverly Gieszelmann pronounced "O" holding the vowel for five seconds as Sobha Puppala taped her voice.

Gieszelmann and her identical twin, Barbara Weatherford, both of Overland Park, are special education teachers in the Blue Valley school district. They were college roommates. They even had a double wedding.

"The priest tried to marry me to her husband," Weatherford said.

Puppala, a Kansas University doctoral student, is trying to determine if they also share the same voice.

"Now I know how my kids feel," Weatherford said, as she was asked to pronounce a vowel once again.

Puppala, who is seeking her doctorate in physical anthropology, is testing identical and fraternal twins to determine how much of a person's voice is determined by genetics, and how much is determined by environment. Working with KU anthropology professor Michael Crawford, she is taping twins reading a passage, "The Rainbow Passage," and sounding out vowels to compare their voices.

Each person's test takes about 12 minutes. She measures their faces and takes into account smoking, alcohol, singing, medication, operations and education -- all of which can affect voice.

Once the voices are taped, they are analyzed by a computer for vocal patterns and frequencies.

"I'm interested to see if there are more similarities in identical twins," Puppala said.

That would mean that genetics plays more of a part in shaping voice, since identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, unlike fraternal twins, who share only 50 percent of the same genes.

Puppala hears a lot of different voices, many which have familial similarities.

"There are little differences," Puppala said. "Once they start reading, I see little differences."

Looking over her results so far, Puppala said that she sees a higher degree of similarities between identical twin's voices. But, she said, not enough fraternal twins had participated in the study yet to come to a conclusion. She is still looking for participants, both fraternal and identical twins.

"I don't mind getting as many as I can," Puppala said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is

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