Research Group 'Psychiatric Genetics', Head: Prof. Dr. Hans H. Stassen

Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

Psychiatric Hospital, University of Zurich


Linguistic Analysis of Schizophrenic, Bipolar, and Depressive Speech

Speech Abnormalities

Using speech samples of 100 patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar illness and major depression, we addressed the question of the extent to which the linguistic abnormalities in the speech of these patients represent diagnosis-specific characteristics, or constitute independent, syndrome-like dimensions of the illnesses. All speech samples were transcribed by a professional linguist who was blind to both identity and diagnosis of the patients. The majority of the deviant linguistic variables was found to be common to all three diagnostic groups under comparison, while only a few linguistic variables exhibited statistically significant between-group differences.

Linguistically Deviant Speech Characteristics

On the other hand, the variety of subtle between-group differences allowed us, when the respective variables were analysed as a multivariate entity, to discriminate between the diagnostic groups at an overall performance of 72.7% correctly classified patients. There was an almost complete lack of association between linguistic abnormalities and psychopathology syndromes. In particular, we found no correlation between the syndrome "formal thought disorder" and the large variety of linguistic variables used in this investigation. In consequence, we conjecture that linguistically deviant speech characteristics represent an independent syndrome complex manifested at varying intensities across mental illnesses, and that this syndrome complex deserves greater attention not only with respect to the principal understanding of the underlying disturbances, but also as a potential target of therapeutical intervention.


Braun S, Annovazzi C, Botella C, Bridler B, Camussi E, Delfino JP, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Papagno C, Pisoni A, Soler C, Seifritz E, Stassen HH: Assessing Chronic Stress, Coping Skills and Mood Disorders through Speech Analysis. A Self-Assessment "Voice App" for Laptops, Tablets, and Smartphones. Psychopathology 2016; 49(6): 406-419 [get the article]
Delfino JP, Barragán E, Botella C, Braun S, Bridler R, Camussi E, Chafrat V, Lott P, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Papagno C, Sanchez S, Seifritz E, Soler C, Stassen HH: Quantifying Insufficient Coping Behavior under Chronic Stress. A cross-cultural study of 1,303 students from Italy, Spain, and Argentina. Psychopathology 2015; 48: 230-239
Braun S, Botella C, Bridler R, Chmetz F, Delfino JP, Herzig D, Kluckner VJ, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Schrag Y, Seifritz E, Soler C, Stassen HH: Affective State and Voice: Cross-Cultural Assessment of Speaking Behavior and Voice Sound Characteristics. A Normative Multi-Center Study of 577+36 Healthy Subjects. Psychopathology 2014; 47(5): 327-340
Mohr C, Braun S, Bridler R, Chmetz F, Delfino JP, Kluckner VJ, Lott P, Schrag Y, Seifritz E, Stassen HH: Insufficient Coping Behavior under Chronic Stress and Vulnerability to Psychiatric Disorders. Psychopathology 2014; 47: 235-243
Stassen HH, Delfino JP, Kluckner VJ, Lott P, Mohr C: Vulnerabilität und psychische Erkrankung. Swiss Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 2014; 165(5): 152-157
Stassen HH (2004) Veränderungen der Sprechmotorik. In: T.Jahn (ed) Bewegungsstörungen bei psychischen Erkrankungen. Springer Heidelberg: 107-125
Stassen HH, Angst J (2002) Wirkung und Wirkungseintritt in der Antidepressiva-Behandlung. In: Böker H and Hell D (eds) Therapie der affektiven Störungen. Stuttgart und New York: Schattauer 141-165
Lott PR, Guggenbühl S, Schneeberger A, Pulver AE, Stassen HH (2002) Linguistic analysis of the speech output of schizophrenic, bipolar, and depressive patients. Psychopathology 35(4): 220-227
Püschel J., Stassen HH, Bomben G, Scharfetter C and Hell D (1998) Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics in acute schizophrenia. J. Psychiatric Research 32, 89-97
Stassen HH, Kuny S, Hell D (1998) The speech analysis approach to determining onset of improvement under antidepressants. Eur. Neuropsychopharmacology 8(4), 303-310
Kuny S, Stassen HH, Hell D (1997) Kognitive Beeinträchtigungen in der Depression. Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatrie 150,3: 18-25
Stassen HH (1995) Affekt und Sprache. Stimm- und Sprachanalysen bei Gesunden, depressiven und schizophrenen Patienten. Monographien aus dem Gesamtgebiete der Psychiatrie, Bd. 79. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer
Stassen HH, Albers M, Püschel J, Scharfetter C, Tewesmeier M, Woggon B (1995) Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics associated with negative schizophrenia. J Psychiat Res. 29, 277-296
Kuny S, Stassen HH (1993) Speaking behavior and voice sound characteristics in depressive patients during recovery. J Psychiat Res. 27, 289-307
characteristic variability
Characteristic variability of spectral intensities among depressive patients ("intonation"). The variations of spectral intensities are plotted along the y-axis on log-proportional scales and as a function of frequency (x-axis: 7 octaves covering the frequency range of 64-8192Hz).
Please note: Depression significantly reduces the dynamic expressiveness of human voices, thus greatly reducing inter-individual differences. As a direct consequence, the patients' voices become more similar to each other ("depressive voice"). Voices regain their distinct individuality during recovery.
[ Mail to Webmaster ] k454910@bli.uzh.ch