You probably looked at the title of this post and thought I lost my mind so early in the new year, but actually there’s a very interesting acoustic phenomena that’s been going around where some people hear the word “Yanny” while others hear “Laural. Let’s give it a try.
If you heard “Yanny” like I did, your ears deceived you. It’s actually a computer generated voice from the vocabulary.com page for the word “laurel.” Don’t believe me? Go to this NY Times site that has a tool where you can hear both clearly.
Essentially what happens is that thanks to the noise and distortion introduced by the various codecs involved with Internet transmission and then your playback system, the upper frequencies of the word are exaggerated and you hear “Yanny” instead of “Laural.”
That said, perception, linguistics and phonetics researchers have also weighed in, with varying opinions as to what’s at work here. Some think that it’s tied to how old you are, which determines how you hear high frequencies, while others believe that what you hear is determined on if you tend to emphasis lower or higher frequencies when listening.
Whatever the case, I continue to hear “Yanny” until the high frequencies are rolled off, then I clearly hear “Laural.” How about you?