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California Girls Aren’t The Only Ones Saying Everything Like It’s A Question?

Uptalk — you know, that rising speech pattern that like totally makes everything sound like a question?—isn't just a Valley girl vocal tic. San Diego researchers say the dialect is widespread throughout Southern California, and guys speak it too.

Aired 12/5/13 on KPBS News.

Uptalk — the rising speech pattern that like totally makes everything sound like a question — isn't just a Valley girl vocal tic. San Diego researchers say the dialect is widespread throughout Southern California and guys do it too.

Frank Zappa's daughter Moon Unit brought uptalk into pop consciousness with her vocals on the 1982 hit single "Valley Girl." But new research suggests girls and Valley-dwellers aren't the only ones who speak the "Valley Girl" dialect.

UC San Diego linguistics researcher Amanda Ritchart recently brought a bunch of college-aged Californians into a speech lab. And she asked them to read a series of turn-by-turn directions aloud. She heard signs of uptalk all over the place.

"OK, so you start at Revelle?" she intones, mimicking the participants. "Keep going until you pass Robeks Juice? Not in the Roosevelt direction? But towards La Jolla Mesa?"

That accent has been the butt of many jokes, mostly aimed at teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley. But Ritchart's data suggests those jokes miss the mark. Guys and girls both do it, she discovered. The uptalkers in her study came from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, many growing up far from the Valley.

"The speakers in the study were born and raised in different counties," she says. "Some were from LA, some were from Orange, some were from Riverside and some were from San Diego as well. So it was pretty much across most of these major areas in Southern California."

Ritchart's work also disproves the misconception that uptalkers phrase statements like questions because they're unsure of what they're saying. They use different inflections when actually asking a question, suggesting they're not softening their sentences.

This is just how lots of people in this part of the country talk, Richart concludes. As an occasional uptalker herself, she says we should embrace uptalk as a unique part of Southern California culture.

Comments

Avatar for user 'shopshopy'

shopshopy | December 4, 2013 at 4:56 p.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

um like duhuh! lol V.G. for life @ least according to my sister

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Avatar for user 'x76'

x76 | December 5, 2013 at 6:15 a.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Maddening affectation. Do people really need buy-in on EVERY SENTENCE THEY UTTER? I'd say this is a sign of mental illness -- total insecurity.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 5, 2013 at 8:36 a.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

I'm Ron Burgundy?

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Avatar for user 'ebsulli'

ebsulli | December 5, 2013 at 9:13 a.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

I have to laugh as one of the worst uptalkers I can think of is NPR's own Terry Gross. Now don't get me wrong, I love Terry, but she is definitely an offender. (And she's not from California, either!)

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | December 5, 2013 at 12:45 p.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

I know a delightful family in Hershey, PA, that speaks like that. They're intelligent folks. It grows on you after a few days.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | December 5, 2013 at 5:38 p.m. ― 9 months, 4 weeks ago

"San Diego researchers say the dialect is widespread throughout Southern California, and guys speak it too." - Of course, Valley Speak has been around since the 1970s, its had 30 years to travel, through TV and Film, and it makes Californians sound as stupid as Southerners.

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