Media uptake on uptalk

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Yesterday afternoon, UC San Diego Linguistics grad student Amanda Ritchart presented her research (joint with Amalia Arvaniti) on the use and realization of uptalk in Southern California English at the 166th Acoustical Society of America meeting. This work is profiled in the ASA's press room, and has thus far received a fair amount of attention. You can hear and/or read about it on KPBS (San Diego's public radio station), at WBUR's Here & Now, on BBC News, and in the Washington Post. (See also this shout-out on the Linguistic Society of America website.)

Uptalk has been discussed many times here on Language Log, so regular readers are probably not unfamiliar with it. But one of the most recent Language Log posts on the topic ("Uptalk awakening", 9/29/2013) shows how relatively unaware of this long-standing feature of many varieties of English some folks still are. So the media coverage of Ritchart & Arvaniti's work is welcome — and on the whole pretty good, if a little biased toward a "wow, it's spreading to men!" interpretation of the research results, which kinda misses the point. But of course, if you scroll down to the comments (why oh why do I ever scroll down to the comments???), you'll see that many appear to think that the use of rising intonation at the ends of (some!) statements is the clearest evidence we have of the decline of western civilization. Sigh.

Update — more here.

 



29 Comments

  1. Eric P Smith said,

    December 6, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    I wonder, how do uptalkers find the declarative sentences of those of us who are older and don't uptalk? Do we come across to them as aggressive and pedantic, as Mark Liberman came across to his son when ending sentences with full stops while texting?

  2. Chris C. said,

    December 6, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

    I was surprised when listening to the news on the radio on the way in to work today, to hear uptalk from Hillary Clinton, even more so because it came out as she was lauding the late Nelson Mandela. It may be just my impression, but I don't seem to hear it much from political figures who are trying to come across as solemn.

    [(myl) You mean like George W. Bush?]

  3. mendel said,

    December 7, 2013 @ 3:46 am

    I've looked for a post on language log that connects uptalk and question tags, but there isn't one, is there? When learning English in a German school in the eighties, they taught this to us, didn't they? German pupils were aware of this contruct so much that the German edition of "Asterix in Britain" was able to mock-translate this construct for humorous purposes, was it not? Of course, it has never occurred as much "in the wild" as it has in German schools, has it? It's proper grammar though, isn't it?

    [(myl) In (stereotypes about) American English, both question tags and uptalk often (without evidence) said to be female-associated features. In "This is, like, such total crap?" (5/15/2005), I noted in discussing Taylor Mali's uptalk pastiche that

    The idea that "uptalk" and tag questions are weak and self-doubting is a commonplace one, you know? But it's not necessarily true? In fact, it may be completely false? Mali's performance reminds me of a radio ad I once heard, in which a hyper-aggressive car salesman deployed repeated final rises like a sonic finger poking you in the chest.

    And I discussed "Gender and Tags" at greater length a year earlier.
    But I don't think we've ever discussed in a serious way the distribution of such tags in British English, from the formal "is it not?" to the demotic "innit".

    There's a brief mention of the sociolinguistics of "innit" here, and a reference here to Jenny Cheshire et al., "On the non-convergence of phonology, grammar and discourse", which notes that

    Another discourse marker that is thought to be rapidly innovating in the urban centres of Britain is innit as an invariant tag. This time the origins of the new uses are thought to lie not in the USA but in the speech of British ethnic minorities (Rampton 1995: 127; Andersen 1999: 116). Innit is presumably a contraction of isn’t it (Andersen 1999: 192) but it is now used ‘non-paradigmatically’– in other words, not copying is and it from a preceding main clause. [...]

    In our recordings innit occurs far less frequently than the discourse marker like: there are only 36 tokens in total. A further difference is that innit is used exclusively by working class speakers. Andersen’s analysis of the Corpus of London Teenage Speech (COLT) revealed a similar social distribution for these two discourse forms: in London like was used by all social groups (though more frequently by the middle class speakers) whereas innit was used more frequently by working class speakers.

    and that

    Woods (1991) reports that discourse features analysed in the Ottawa survey showed a greater amount of socially stratified variation than phonological variables: the middle class speakers used a larger number of ‘opinion openers’ such as I think, presumably, in my opinion, whereas the working class speakers used more markers soliciting or anticipating agreement between speaker and addressee, such as you know, eh or don’t you think. In New Zealand, Stubbe and Holmes (1995), similarly, found you know and eh to be more frequent in working class speech, and I think in middle class speech. In addition, you know occurred more frequently in the informal speech styles of both classes, and I think was more frequent in the more formal speech styles. Gender differences in the use of discourse markers have also been reported (for example, by Erman 1993, Stubbe and Holmes 1995 and Holmes 1995a; see further below). Nevertheless, Macaulay (2002a) reviews what is currently known about sociolinguistic variation in the use of discourse variation, and concludes “it would take a braver person than I am to assert with confidence that we have much solid information on gender, age or social class differences”.

    Are you suggesting that there's a functional relationship between question tags and uptalk? This is certainly possible — though both question tags and uptalk are functionally very diverse, so the relationship would be complex at best. But to go beyond stereotypes and anecdotes, we'd need to have some published speech datasets in which the distribution and discourse function of uptalk are examined. And this, unfortunately, is exactly what we still don't have, 25 years after the phenomenon first came to widespread notice.]

  4. peter said,

    December 7, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    In Southern African English, there is widespread use of the tag, "isn't it?", to end statements. I wonder if this tag is a translation from some other language, such as Afrikaans. This tag is used to seek confirmation from the listener of the speaker's prior statement, even when doing so does not fit grammatically, as in:

    "You are going now, isn't it?"

  5. mendel said,

    December 7, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Thank you for the links and the extensive reply. My general idea was that adding a question tag (or a tag question) is a way to lend an upward inflection to a declarative statement, and so that they might have a similar purpose. In the "gender and tags" article, tag questions are classified as either model or affective, expressing uncertainty about the declaration and prompting the addressee to reply. The "Elementary-school uptalk" article has examples that could fit this theory. Rick S comments:

    "Taking these interpretations all together, some discourse purposes of non-interrogative uptalk seem to be (1) to retain the conversation turn, while (2) inviting nonverbal feedback that directs the speaker's choice of what to say next, allowing him to avoid going on at length when the listener is unable or unwilling to follow. It might be motivated by a desire for approval, but it might just as well come from a wish to stay profitably connected."

    "Solicitating agreement" (quoted from your comment) sounds like a very similar role for question tags.

    Both Uptalk and tag questions appear to have the role of confirming and enhancing the connectedness of speaker and listener, with the difference of Uptalk being less likely to prompt the other party to start speaking.

    As for "innit", in my mind I hear it spoken as much with a downturn in inflection as otherwise. Tag questions pronounced with downturned inflection come across differently from those with an upturn, so maybe in some cases tag questions are added for the sake of that upturn? And not vice versa?

    The idea is that question tags are the old, "posh" way to hide Uptalk. I can imagine how the tags would make it into lower class as confirmation tags (with no up inflection), imitating upperclass use of question tags as softeners when talking to subordinates (where might makes right and the question tags aren't really an invitation to disagree), but also how people who want the function of the question tags but not appear "posh" simply drop the tags and keep the change in inflection.

    Lots of speculation, too little research, apparently — certainly on my part. Interesting t think about, though. Thanks again.

  6. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    December 7, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    Off topic, but I followed the bbc link and found this story:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24124158

    That seems very interesting and a good topic for a future LL post.

  7. Rod Johnson said,

    December 7, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    @peter: I believe that use of "isn't it?" is very common in Indian English, at least some varieties. It's often taken to be the English equivalent of the Hindi particle na. It wouldn't be a surprise if that has shown up in SA English as well.

  8. Calitri said,

    December 8, 2013 @ 1:26 am

    I'm always fascinated with linguists who can analyze a speech pattern, regardless of its merit, and give it credence.

    Another example of this is their theory on "uptalk",– a silly speech pattern initiated, it seems, by valley girls in California–awarding it historical value as if it has any.

    No, I'm not venting about the decline of western civilization, just on the decline of reliable and substantive research.

    [ How exactly is this particular research not "reliable", and on what basis can you judge whether it's "substantive"? You seem to think that the point of research is to validate (or at least, not to invalidate) your own uninformed preconceptions. How sad it must be to not be interested in having your prior unfounded beliefs challenged. -- EB ]

  9. John Walden said,

    December 8, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    I don't think Valley Girls influenced Australians, South Walians, Hispanics who depend on intonation alone to make questions, Scandinavians and any number of others who used uptalk long before the valley girl phenomenon was noticed, possibly even long before the valley was built on.

    The Valley Girl phenomenon would have historical value if it could be traced, say, to Hispanic influence. Calling it "silly" is silly.

  10. maidhc said,

    December 8, 2013 @ 6:49 am

    Isn't uptalk supposed to have originated in Australia? Admittedly there are connections with southern California, but is there enough to import a mode of speech? Although the widespread adoption of Uggs seems to indicate it might be possible.

  11. Calitri said,

    December 8, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    EB:

    What makes you presume that my conceptions are preconceived or uninformed? I stand by what I said.

    The term “uptalk” was invented in 1993 and according to a 1995 piece in the Houston Chronicle, "It began as a feature of valley speak, the adolescent argot native to the San Fernando Valley and immortalized by the valley girl. But now uptalk has taken on a life of its own."

    It seems then, that no one can definitively affix uptalk's geographical origins, and it may well have started in several different places more or less synchronously.

    I have a problem with linguists who extrapolate information from an area not known so as to arrive at a usually conjectural knowledge of the unknown area. I understand that this is your job and your information might have credence, but the subject matter certainly doesn’t.

    By affixing the linguistic code name HRT, (high-rise terminals) only validates this juvenile (yes, juvenile) speech pattern that was initiated by teenagers who want to talk like their friends because it makes them feel good.

    The basis on why I think this research on “uptalk” is meaningless is because the speech pattern is meaningless and puerile.

    The saying: “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” applies to my position concerning uptalk; it’s artificial and (I hope) ephemeral. It has no significance beyond an artifice from linguists who want to create meaning from nothingness.

    [ And I stand by what I asked: what basis do you have for your personal judgment — beyond the fact that it's your personal judgment — that uptalk is "juvenile", "meaningless", and "puerile"? Your own personal attitude toward it constitutes a fact about your attitudes, not a fact about uptalk itself.

    You claim to know that uptalk "was initiated by teenagers". How can you presume to know this — or that "it makes them feel good"? And doesn't it seem circular to you to claim that teenagers initiated it because they "want[ed] to talk like their friends"? Who were the first teenagers to initiate it, then, and what was their motivation? — EB ]

  12. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    December 9, 2013 @ 9:48 am

    Just because a feature of someone's speech is stigmatized does not mean it is not worth attention. I guess the social psychology of such stigmatization is itself a worthy topic of research.

    I know a 55 year-old male from LA who has uptalk, and has not lived in LA in the past 30 years, so I don't think it could have been invented in 1993!

  13. un malpaso said,

    December 9, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

    Calitri: So… studying human behavior of any kind "validates" it, which is annoying because (to you) said behavior is "silly"?
    You do know that it never needed, or asked, for your, or indeed anyone's "validation"?

    There are a lot of unclear concepts to unpack in your comments. I will leave it to the professionals to unpack them, if they want. But I assure you that you have every right to go on being annoyed by uptalk, just as researchers have every right to go on researching it.

    But as to whether it is significant for study? … I can only speak for myself, as a naturally curious layman who shares some of the curiosity that makes linguists, and other scientists, want to examine things. I thank goodness that this human desire exists, and that enough people do care about things which other incurious types consider "ephemeral" and "meaningless."

  14. Chris C. said,

    December 9, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    [(myl) You mean like George W. Bush?]

    Possibly. The effect is as if one is reading a list, with the upturn coming at the end of each item. It sounds less out of place when "running down" a set of introductory remarks than when eulogizing a great man.

  15. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 9, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    I see that I participated in one of those earlier "innit"-related threads, and would welcome a future post giving deeper scholarly insight into that particular phenomenon, especially as to the development/spread of the "non-paradigmatic" use (which I take it means usage in a context where "isn't it" would be not only unidiomatic but syntatically ill-formed for most native speakers). "Innit" is so far out of my own dialect that in my once-regular interactions with someone (born/raised England and speaking a non-posh variety of BrEng) I don't think I bothered to sort instances into "paradigmatic" and "non-paradigmatic" because it wasn't like the former seemed less unnatural to me in speech (although perhaps it might have it writing).

  16. Calitri said,

    December 10, 2013 @ 2:06 am

    EB:

    The basis for my “judgement” (“an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought,” Merriam Webster) is common sense and the right to make that judgment as you have the right to counter it.

    [ (EB) Of course you have the right to make your judgment. I'm just asking you to justify the claims you make, since you make them authoritatively. How exactly is it "common sense" that uptalk is what you judge it to be? ]

    I am not the first person to claim that “uptalk” was initiated by teenagers, as you are quite well aware the Houston Chronicle made that claim in 1993.

    [ (EB) And what evidence did they provide for the claim? My problem isn't with you making the claim, it's with you advancing it further without evidence other than the claim itself. ]

    Furthermore, it seems that my opinion is only presumptuous because it opposes yours.

    [ (EB) You seem not to have noted that I have not expressed a normative opinion about uptalk whatsoever. I would be just as curious -- though admittedly less explicitly so -- if someone had expressed the same sorts of judgments here about the lack of uptalk. ]

    “Who were the first teenagers who initiated it, then, and what was their motivation?”
    If I could factually answer that question then we wouldn’t have an argument. Apparently neither can you, or anyone else, ascertain uptalk’s specific origin.

    It seems self-evident as to their motivation and why they want to talk like their friends: peer pressure and conformism. Also, for the same reason teenagers use vogue words and expressions.

    [ (EB) So teenagers use uptalk (or vogue words and expressions) because their peers use it(/them), who use it(/them) because… This was my point in asking you about the initial motivation: "peer pressure and conformism" simply can't be the entire explanation. And besides, if it weren't for the fact that we all (not just teenagers) aim to conform to our peers, language learning wouldn't be possible at all. Or do you think that your own word choices, pronunciation patterns, etc., are completely unique to you? ]

    Mayhew said:
    “Just because a feature of someone's speech is stigmatized does not mean it is not worth attention.”

    I never asserted that “uptalk” is not worth attention; I just don’t think it merits too much attention, for I think it’s a substandard speech pattern.

    “I know a 55 year-old male from LA who has[sic] uptalk, and has not lived in LA in the past 30 years, so I don't think it could have been invented in 1993!”

    Again, I never claimed that uptalk was invented in 1993, but what the Houston Chronicle claimed was that the “term” uptalk was invented in 1993.

    Un Malpaso said:
    “You do know that it never needed, or asked, for your, or indeed anyone's "validation "?”

    A rhetorical question that I shall answer: I offered my opinion on an open forum that encourages comments. The fact that my opinion repudiates the established consensus has nothing to do with validation.

    “…other incurious types consider "ephemeral" and "meaningless."”

    Malpaso’s curiosity is easy to please, whereas mine is perhaps a little more esoteric, but never dormant; I’m only curious in meaningful language; therefore, I eschew the superficial, and that’s my prerogative.

  17. Chris C. said,

    December 10, 2013 @ 8:04 am

    Calitri, I'm doing my best to fathom the basis for your complaint here, and I just don't see it. You can wrap it in high-falutin' phrases all you like, but all this really boils down to is the old bleat about kids these days, and the reactionary conviction that the language is degenerating when it changes at all. The idea that one speech pattern has more "merit" than another, or that one is "substandard" but another is not, is ludicrous.

    Uptalk is clearly neither superficial nor ephemeral. It's been noted for at least 20 years now, and can be found in many geographical areas and social levels.

  18. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    December 10, 2013 @ 9:50 am

    The stigma makes it more, not less interesting, because that ingredient of sociolinguistic discrimination gets added to the mix. It seems odd for someone to spend so much time worrying that other people are interested in something that holds little interest for you.

  19. Calitri said,

    December 11, 2013 @ 2:56 am

    EB:

    “How exactly is it "common sense" that uptalk is what you judge it to be?”

    Some subject matters are just commonsensical, and sound practical judgment, which is independent of specialized knowledge, is all that is needed to make a prudent evaluation. I apologize, but I cannot justify insignificance to someone who values it as relevant.

    “And what evidence did they provide for the claim? My problem isn't with you making the claim, it's with you advancing it further without evidence other than the claim itself.”

    The evidence seems to be anecdotal, but my claim is based, I reiterate, on common sense, and from what I’ve read on the subject.

    Are you claiming that educated adults initiated “uptalk”?
    It seems most assuredly that teenagers in Southern California, where most of the studies have been made, popularized this speech pattern.

    “And besides, if it weren't for the fact that we all (not just teenagers) aim to conform to our peers, language learning wouldn't be possible at all
    Or do you think that your own word choices, pronunciation patterns, etc., are completely unique to you?”

    Yes, we all learn from our peers, and for this reason some of us speak eloquently and others don’t.

  20. Calitri said,

    December 11, 2013 @ 3:41 am

    Chris C :

    “Calitri, I'm doing my best to fathom the basis for your complaint here, and I just don't see it. You can wrap it in high-falutin' phrases all you like, but all this really boils down to is the old bleat about kids these days, and the reactionary conviction that the language is degenerating when it changes at all. The idea that one speech pattern has more "merit" than another, or that one is "substandard" but another is not, is ludicrous.”

    There’s no pretension on my part, but it seems there’s a little disdain on your end. I’m not complaining, I’m opining on EB’s initial topic. Don’t categorize it as a complaint because you oppose my opinion.

    You feel that all speech patterns are equal, that’s a misguided opinion that I don’t agree with it.

    There is a vast distinction between James Joyce and Jackie Collins. They are both novelists and words are the tools of their trade. Dare I say that one is distinctly superior to the other.

  21. Chris C. said,

    December 11, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

    You feel that all speech patterns are equal

    No, I never said that. There are always differences in code and register, and to use speech in one context that's more appropriate for another will never be perceived as correct. You are claiming this one speech pattern is never correct for any context, and that's flat-out wrong. It's plainly becoming appropriate for a great many contexts, and has been for some time now.

    And of course you're being pretentious. When you enthrone your "common sense" as the only morally upright standard regardless of any information to the contrary, you can be nothing but.

    There is a vast distinction between James Joyce and Jackie Collins. They are both novelists and words are the tools of their trade. Dare I say that one is distinctly superior to the other.

    If what I wanted to read was a trashy romance, and you handed me a copy of Ulysses instead, I'd tell you it was eminently unsuited to the purpose. Joyce may be infinitely more significant than Collins, but I suspect anyone who claims to read him for pleasure is either lying or a little mad. I might not quite agree with the literary taste of someone who might read Collins for pleasure, but it's at least fathomable.

  22. Calitri said,

    December 12, 2013 @ 3:43 am

    Chris C.:

    “No I never said that.”

    Those were not your words, but that is essentially what you implied.

    “The idea that one speech pattern has more "merit" than another, or that one is "substandard" but another is not, is ludicrous.”

    Why would anyone not infer that you feel that all speech patterns are equal? Please, Let’s not get into semantics.

    “You are claiming this one speech pattern is never correct for any context, and that's flat-out wrong.”

    That’s presupposition on your part, for I never made any assertion on correctness; don’t distort the argument.

    “And of course you're being pretentious. When you enthrone your "common sense" as the only morally upright standard regardless of any information to the contrary, you can be nothing but.”

    Where is the information to the contrary? This discourse is only about opinions. You have an opinion on uptalk and I have mine. If you don’t agree with it, that’s your prerogative, but don’t misinterpret what I wrote. I never implied that "common sense" was the only upright standard, I said that some things are commonsensical without the need for specialized knowledge.

    “Joyce may be infinitely more significant than Collins, but I suspect anyone who claims to read him for pleasure is either lying or a little mad.”

    I disagree, and I must say that’s quite an audacious and foolish claim.

    I read Joyce, as do many others, for the pleasure of reading his mastery of language. It has nothing to do with understanding his abstruse writing, it has to do with admiring it, and that gives many people great pleasure.

    You obviously failed to understand my allegorical reference to Joyce and Collins, or you just sidestepped rather than refute what you couldn’t.

    What I tried to illustrate by comparing the two writers was the distinction between greatness and mediocrity. Collins does not write meaningful literature, whereas Joyce obviously did. And it’s all based on words, how those words are expressed, and how we determine what is meaningful and what isn’t.

  23. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    December 12, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

    All intonational patterns are equal, in fact. You might enjoy hearing statements with an upward rise, or hate them, but that is an aesthetic preference that has nothing to do with James Joyce or the price of butter. Linguists don't really discriminate about the inherent value of linguistic features. I don't like uptalk very much myself, but so what? How is that even relevant?

  24. Chris C. said,

    December 12, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    Calitri, there's been lots of actual data cited here. You need to follow links when they're provided. If you won't look, you won't look, but you can't expect to be taken seriously in that case, most particularly when you make such an effort at pomposity. "Allegory", seriously?

    For "correct" read "suitable" or "appropriate", like any reasonable person would do. When you get down to parsing that closely, you're clearly avoiding the point.

  25. Calitri said,

    December 13, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    Chris C., again you’re distorting the argument essentially to vent with ad hominems.

    I’ve refuted everything you’ve said and all you do is try to introduce semantics into our debate.

    “For "correct" read "suitable" or "appropriate", like any reasonable person would do. When you get down to parsing that closely, you're clearly avoiding the point.”

    I have no idea what you’re saying. I’ve never discussed appropriateness or suitability, nor have I referred to those terms. I did , however, discuss “meaningful” language.

    “Calitri, there's been lots of actual data cited here. You need to follow links when they're provided. If you won't look, you won't look, but you can't expect to be taken seriously in that case, most particularly when you make such an effort at pomposity. "Allegory", seriously?”

    What makes you presume that I’ve not followed those links? What data are you referring to?
    Let me simplify this for you: I have an opinion on uptalk, an opinion that counters yours and apparently an opinion that you perceive as pompous, or perhaps it’s just your misguided perception due to your insecurity.

    Regarding the history of uptalk, I’m referring to the current uptalk phenomenon that apparently originated in the 1980s by young women living in the San Fernando Valley and spread from there.

    John Walden said:

    “I don't think Valley Girls influenced Australians, South Walians, Hispanics who depend on intonation alone to make questions, Scandinavians and any number of others who used uptalk long before the valley girl phenomenon was noticed, possibly even long before the valley was built on.”

    He’s not only mixing apples and oranges he’s introducing irrelevancy. He claims that Valley Girls did not influence Australians, Scandinavians etc. That’s true, but I don’t think those countries influenced uptalk to Valley Girls. Regardless, the phenomenon is in America, not in Scandinavia. Furthermore, Scandinavians speak Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish. Do they all use uptalk or is uptalk just a typical native inflection?

  26. Calitri said,

    December 13, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    Mayhew said:

    “All intonational patterns are equal…”

    That might be true, but when did I mention equality in speech patterns? I just opined on uptalk, which I thought was silly, as you just did by admitting that you weren’t too fond of it either.

    The intonational pattern of uptalk might be equal, but I’m not arguing intonation. I am arguing Valley Girl uptalk, which involves more than just intonation.

    “…but that is an aesthetic preference that has nothing to do with James Joyce or the price of butter…”

    The analogy that I was trying to make, which seems to have failed, was the comparison of meaningful language versus frivolous language. We can debate this forever, but the bottom line is we shall always make the distinction between better and worse. The fact that uptalk has become more ubiquitous and prolific doesn’t alter its, (in my opinion) silly speech representation. What it does indicate is the constant justification, by linguists, for the lowest common denominator.

    Regarding aesthetics, yes, there is an aesthetic value to this argument and you made that value judgment concerning uptalk; it seems that common sense is in agreement.

  27. Chris C. said,

    December 13, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    I did , however, discuss “meaningful” language.

    All language is meaningful. If it were not, it wouldn't be language.

    Regarding the history of uptalk, I’m referring to the current uptalk phenomenon that apparently originated in the 1980s by young women living in the San Fernando Valley and spread from there.

    That was 30 years ago — assuming it actually originated then and there, with those people, for which there is no good evidence. So even were you correct, the phenomenon is clearly not ephemeral. I also have to wonder what makes you think this is any more or less meaningful than any other intonation pattern.

    So I suppose that if I were to link you to a recording of James Joyce reading his own work with uptalk sprinkled liberally throughout, you'd ascribe depth and meaning and permanence to it? Why? What makes his uptalk more valid than someone else's?

  28. Calitri said,

    December 14, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    Chris C.,

    “All language is meaningful. If it were not, it wouldn't be language.”

    Yes, that is true, even though some languages are more complex than others. But you’re taking my statement out of context; I was referring to uptalk language. I understand, I should have said,
    “meaningful speech patterns.”

    “That was 30 years ago — assuming it actually originated then and there, with those people, for which there is no good evidence. So even were you correct, the phenomenon is clearly not ephemeral. I also have to wonder what makes you think this is any more or less meaningful than any other intonation pattern.”

    It seems that uptalk began as a feature of Valley Speak, which is native to the San Fernando Valley in California; this seems to be the consensus.
    The English language started approximately 1,500 to 2,000 years ago and there is no consensus on the origin or age of language itself, but let’s just say conservatively 5,000 BC, then I would think 30 years to be ephemeral.

    “…if I were to link you to a recording of James Joyce reading his own work with uptalk sprinkled liberally throughout, you'd ascribe depth and meaning and permanence to it? Why? What makes his uptalk more valid than someone else's?”

    Your first sentence is punctuated with a question mark, so I’m assuming it’s a question, even though you’ve phrased it as a declarative sentence, unless, you’re utilizing uptalk. (I’m being facetious).

    I dislike uptalk and I would not attribute meaning to it just because a great writer utilizes it. Regardless, your hypothetical is unrealistic because intellectuals, such as Joyce, typically never concede to a trendy argot. (Please don’t submit exceptions.)

    Keep in mind, that intonation is just one aspect of uptalk. There are also other features—such as a juvenile vocabulary—that are usually included with the speech pattern.

  29. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    December 14, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    I disagree. What of the parody of journalese in the Cyclops episode?

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