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Darwin Correspondence Project

To ?   [1872 or later?]1

(Does the same infant or young child cry, all the time, & on successive occasions, on approximately the same note?)

(Do different infants or young children cry on the same note relatively to their usual voices?—)

(The same questions about laughter.)—

(When young children are impatient & call louder & louder for anything, does the pitch change?)

(If the pitch changes during crying or laughter, or impatience or anythingQQQQ, I shd be very glad of any remarks on the nature of the change.)— (Is the pitch higher in crying or screaming than in laughing?)2

Remember that I am as ignorant as a pig all about pitches & tones & such things.

C. Darwin


The date is conjectured from the fact that CD was writing on the voice as a means of expression at the end of 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19, letter to H. E. Litchfield, [before 2 December 1871]. This letter was previously published in Correspondence vol. 20, Expression supplement, from a transcription in a sale catalogue.
CD discussed the pitch of children’s speech in Expression, p. 86, and the possible relationship between the shape of children’s mouths when crying and the sound resulting in Expression, pp. 91–2. CD had circulated a questionnaire about expression from 1867 onwards, but there is no evidence that these questions were circulated. This draft may be connected with the letter to E. F. Talbot, 19 July 1881 (Correspondence vol. 29). In that letter, CD suggests that it may be worth investigating uniformity of pitch in the voices of young children under various frames of mind. His letter was published with other items in as section of the Journal of Social Science 15 (1882): 1–52 on infant development. The section concludes with a questionnaire for parents, although it doesn’t include any of the questions CD asks here.


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Queries about the pitch of children’s crying.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
The British Library (Surrogate RP 8051)
Physical description
1p photocopy

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8135F,” accessed on 27 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20