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Posts Tagged ‘Speech patterns in young women’

A high definition recording of speech showing vocal fry at the end.

A high definition recording of speech showing vocal fry at the end.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger.net

Did you ever notice the bizarre manner of speech adopted by young women and girls lately?   It actually is a speech pattern that has evolved from what used to be called “valley girl speech” in the 1980’s. That pattern mostly consisted of “uptalk” where the voice rises at the end of a sentence, making a statement into a sort of question.

In 2013, this phenomenon has evolved to consist of several components, but the most annoying is “vocal fry” where the pitch drops and growls, mostly at the end of sentences.  The other variations include the use of “like” punctuating every few words, but guys do that too.  Here is a video that discusses vocal fry on the Today show.

www.today.com/video/new-speech-pattern-of-young-women-vocal-fry-44540995528

Some say that only “old guys” find this sort of speech to be ridiculous, but there are women who dislike it as well. I began to notice it a couple of years ago and, for some reason, found it obnoxious and irritating. At first it seemed like a way of talking used only by dopey teenage girls, but recently I have noticed it being paraded on TV and radio by otherwise intelligent and accomplished women.

At first I thought, “She needs to see a speech coach, because it is so distracting.”  And then I would wonder, “Is she going to talk like this for the rest of her life?”    “Did she actually go on a job interview speaking like that?”

But then I thought, “I’m just too sensitive as to how people speak—-get over it.”

However it turns out that many people have noticed this trend in female vocalizing, and some experts have written about it and some have found some redeeming value to this style of speech.

Most observers have a negative view , while some talk about how anyone’s speech can be changed, for example by moving to the south and then saying, “Y’all.”  So girls hear their friends talking this way, or hear Brittney Spears sing this way or hear women on TV such as the Kardashians  (whoever they are.)  

By the way, starting sentences with the word “so” is also getting to be a common speech technique to give the impression that the speaker is merely continuing a conversation that has already begun or introducing a new topic.  So I do it myself and find it to be a useful communication method, but now I have to stop it because it is becoming omnipresent and sloppily used.

A related manner of speech is to start a sentence with “and.”   Below is a  song by Barry Manilow (“When October Goes”)   It starts with “…and when October goes..”   The lyrics are by Johnny Mercer, one of the best lyricists ever.   And, you know, starting that song with “and” really does work—I like it that way.  OK OK, saying “you know” is also obnoxious…ya know what I’m saying?  And so is “like” as in “this article is like getting boring already.”

So I guess it’s good that language changes, otherwise we all would be speaking like Willie Shakespeare.  (What? You don’t think they had nicknames in the 16th century?   Getouttahere.!)

Here are some related links:

2011 Journal of Voice:

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0892199711000701

2012 NY Times article on female speech

Vocal fry in the NY Times 2012

2015  NPR  on female speech patterns:

www.npr.org/2015/07/23/425608745/from-upspeak-to-vocal-fry-are-we-policing-young-womens-voices

MUSICAL ADD-ONS:

So, here is a Johnny Mercer song which begins with the word “And”

“When October Goes”  by Barry Manilow (music) and Johnny Mercer  (lyrics)

And here is Harry Nilsson who knows something about people talking at him. So you may recall that this music is from Midnight Cowboy, which is on the Blogfinger Unforgettable Movie list.

2017 update:   Yesterday, October 9,  the  Wall Street Journal ran a piece on this subject, but this time a female linguist had a somewhat different take.  She finds that women who talk like this are victimized at work because of their speech pattern. She says that men also speak that way, so the idea that such speech is specific to women is a form of oppression.

I think this “linguist” has an agenda that is political and is not really about the speech patterns that we reported on in 2013.  She says that the pattern was only first observed in 2015, but our article shows otherwise.  In addition she only mentions vocal fry and not the other components mentioned in our article above.

Her interview is fake news because women are in fact the ones that use such speech predominantly. Men may sometimes have a sort of vocal fry, but it is indiginous to their maleness and not a form of speech meme acquired by women almost exclusively.

And, by the way, Blogfinger struck a nerve in 2013 with our post (above). It has become the most viewed article of ours compared to our roughly 7,000 posts in our archive. It shows that few experts are reporting on this and also that lots of people are interested and find us through Google searches and links sent from BF.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.  Here is the link to the WSJ:

WSJ on vocal fry October, 2017

LITTLE WILLIE JOHN with “Talk to Me.”

“Talk to me, talk to me
Um-mm, I love the things you say
Talk to me, talk to me
In your own sweet gentle way”

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