This came into focus pretty sharply a couple weeks ago with a Safire column where he uses the word in this way a few times. This morning, waiting for the Packers to face the Lions, I finally got around to looking at what dictionaries say about it, figuring that I was just stodgy here and that it's an utterly unremarkable use. Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate suggests as much; it has this meaning second, after only the really basic historical meaning of 'to bend or curve':
change in pitch or loudness of the voiceI really wouldn't have included 'loudness' in here, just pitch, but pitch, loudness and duration are so intertwined in prosodic stuff that it's hard to object. But the Oxford English Dictionary On-line doesn't get to this until its fifth entry:
Modulation of the voice; in speaking or singing: a change in the pitch or tone of the voice.Maybe this is more common American usage than British? (Separated by a Common Language hasn't treated it that I see.)
I've asked a couple of other linguists, and they seem to agree that this is a less than fortunate accident of lexical semantics, but it doesn't seem to bother anybody like it does me. Haven't talked to non-linguists about it, mostly just assuming that there's not much to say there.
Go Pack go!