Chat with #JeopardyLaura

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Thanks to Bob Kennedy, I was able to find the full Jeopardy shows from November 23-24, and pull out the segments where the hosts "chats" with contestant Laura Ashby, whose in-game response's prosody ate the internet for a couple of days just before Thanksgiving ("Jeopardy gossip", 11/25/2015).

Here they are:


As you can hear, her conversational exchanges do not have the exaggerated fall-rise lengthening of final unstressed syllables that listeners found so striking in her in-game topic selections — like this one at the end of the Nov. 23 clip above:



  1. David L said,

    December 2, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

    But she has a little bit of the same intonation, an incipient version. Listen to 'hawaii' and 'time zone' in the first clip, and 'frown on that' in the second.

  2. Ray said,

    December 2, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

    when I hear her, in-game and out-game, I hear valley gurl. with an eye roll. perhaps she's just embarrassed wherever she finds herself?

  3. Victor Mair said,

    December 3, 2015 @ 12:38 am

    Sounds like an auctioneer's chant, not uptalk. (starting at about 2:40)

    Video 1: looping video of Laura Ashby doing the numbers.

    Video 2: Vic Dibitetto makes the big time! (What's his accent?)


  4. Bruno Estigarribia said,

    December 3, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

    I agree with David L (for what it's worth, I am not a native speaker of English). I do hear some lengthening (with the attendant dip+upward prosody) in the first clip in "Hawai'i" (0:13) (not too sure about "time zone", 0;27). And in the second clip, a tiny bit of that on "frown on that." Has anybody ever heard this speech pattern before? (auctioneers excepted). I guess that is the main thing we all want to know.

  5. DaveK said,

    December 3, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

    I've had problems all my life with stuttering, and I've noticed that I, and other stutterers, will often elongate the beginning of words to avoid stuttering. It's a way of easing into a troublesome sound. My thought when I heard her was that she was trying to avoid a stutter or some other speech impediment, but I've never heard anyone stretching out the end of words.

  6. ohwilleke said,

    December 4, 2015 @ 12:08 am

    Clips like these make me feel good about the fact that I didn't end up as a linguist. I can't hear it at all.

  7. flow said,

    December 4, 2015 @ 11:02 am

    @David L—I haven't been following this thread but, yes, when I clicked to listen to the first sample I thought "yeah well, she *is* doing this all the time indeed!", only to find out the clip was meant to prove she does *not*.

  8. tangent said,

    December 5, 2015 @ 2:00 am

    The one-second clip definitely struck me as a stylized patter, maybe an auctioneer who thinks the bidding is too low currently.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    December 5, 2015 @ 8:26 am


    See my comment above. We reacted to it the same way. That was my immediate reaction, even after hearing just the one-second clip. The glide upward is coaxing, not questioning. It is different from standard uptalk.

    My impression, after hearing her do it a bit more, was that she grew up around or among auctioneers, or even that she herself had dabbled in auctioneering. It just sounds so second nature to her

  10. Jeff W said,

    December 5, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

    @ David L

    But she has a little bit of the same intonation…

    I caught it also.

    @ Victor Mair

    The glide upward is coaxing, not questioning.

    Yeah, Ashby has that intonation (at its most pronounced) when she’s naming the dollar amount with the category. It’s like she’s “leading into” the item that is about to be revealed. It sounds to me like a stylized intonation for the show—adding a bit of a flourish or “spin” onto the end of the dollar amount—which exaggerates a subtle intonation she has elsewhere. (I wouldn’t view it as necessarily arising from being around auctioneers, although it does sound similar to an auctioneer chant.)

    Actually, you can also hear the upward intonation in her answers (or, in Jeopardy, her “questions”) as well—as in this audio clip from a Sacramento radio show (e.g., “Who is Cat Woman?” at 3:49, “Who is Andy?” at 4:24, “What is ‘nouveau’” at 4:45), so if she is “coaxing” in the topic/dollar selection, that’s only part of the explanation. (Katie Beers, one of the hosts of the show, does an impressive imitation.)

  11. Micah said,

    December 8, 2015 @ 9:19 am

    What application was used in that screenshot?

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