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"Valley Girl Speak" Spreading to Men

Update Date: Dec 04, 2013 01:55 PM EST

Valley Girl speak or the American English speech variant characterized by a rise in pitch at the ends of sentences is spreading to males, a new study suggests.

Researchers said that the Valley Girl accent, which is generally associated with young southern California females, is expanding to other demographic groups.

"We believe that uptalk is becoming more prevalent and systematic in its use for the younger generations in Southern California," researcher Amanda Ritchart, a linguist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, said in a news release.

Researchers recorded the voices of 24 native southern Californians during several speech tasks. Participants were asked to give directions in a map navigation task or summarize what happened after watching a popular sitcom.

The findings revealed that Valley Girl speak not only transcends gender boundaries, it also transcends many other boundaries as well.

"Our sample only included undergraduate students ages 18-22, so we cannot say anything definitive about older southern Californians," Ritchart said. "But we found use of uptalk in all of our speakers, despite their diverse backgrounds in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, bilingualism and gender."

Researchers said that the point of the study is to understand Valley Girl dialect development and what it means for global communication of miscommunication.

"Imagine a teacher from the American Midwest moving to California and hearing students give a presentation using uptalk," Arvaniti said. "To the Midwesterner, the southern California speakers may sound tentative or even ditzy." On the other hand, the lack of uptalk from their teacher may seem unfriendly to students, thus harming relationships and communication.

The findings will be presented work at the fall meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), held Dec. 2-6, 2013, in San Francisco, California. 

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