Skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

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.

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.

Photo by Gilles Péris y Saborit via Flickr

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.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.