You can talk like a “Valley girl,” too? That could be a statement, but if you paid attention to the question mark in the sentence, then the pitch of your voice rose as you read it. The style of talking has been called “Valley girl speak”—linguists know it as “speaking with a high rising terminal,” or “uptalk.” But it’s not just for females, according to a new study being presented Thursday at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. Researchers examined the speech patterns of two dozen college-aged males and females who had grown up in southern California, as each individual gave directions or described scenes from a sitcom. Both males and females used uptalk, they found, although females used the speech pattern more often. When recordings of the students’ voices were analyzed, the scientists also discovered that they could distinguish instances of uptalk from true questions—the rise in pitch began earlier in the sentence when a question was being asked. The findings add weight to the concept that uptalk isn’t associated with personality or confidence—or the “Valley girl” stereotype alone—but is a true regional dialect.
For a story on another unusual speech pattern, check out our 2011 piece on “vocal fry,” our most popular story of all time.