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OMG, Guys Can Talk Like Valley Girls, Too?

For sure, 'uptalk' is spreading, new study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 4, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- You can talk like a "Valley Girl" -- even if you're a guy -- a new study contends.

The so-called Valley Girl dialect, also known as uptalk, is expanding to males, the study found. Valley Girl speak is marked by a rise in pitch at the end of sentences and is typically associated with young southern California females.

The study authors recorded the voices of about two dozen native southern Californians (about half male and half female) doing things such as giving directions or talking about a TV show.

The results showed that uptalk has become a part of southern California English among both females and males in a wide range of demographic groups.

"Our sample only included undergraduate students ages 18 to 22, so we cannot say anything definitive about older southern Californians," study author Amanda Ritchart, a linguist at the University of California, San Diego, said in an American Institute of Physics news release. "But we found use of uptalk in all of our speakers, despite their diverse backgrounds in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, bilingualism and gender."

Outsiders can be confused by uptalk because they may wonder if the speaker is asking a question, said the study authors. The investigators also identified distinct melodic vocal patterns distinguishing an uptalk question from a statement.

One goal of this research is to fully understand the development of uptalk and how it affects communication between people.

"Imagine a teacher from the American Midwest moving to California and hearing students give a presentation using uptalk. To the Midwesterner, the southern California speakers may sound tentative or even ditzy," study co-author and professor Amalia Arvaniti said in the news release.

On the other hand, the lack of uptalk from the teacher may seem unfriendly to the students and have a potentially harmful effect on relationships and communication, the researchers suggested.

The study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at an Acoustical Society of America meeting in San Francisco. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders offers an overview of voice, speech and language.

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