linguistics

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Uptalk? Linguists Say It’s Not Just For So Cal ‘Valley Girls’ Anymore?

uptalk
This is a simple declarative sentence but I’m ending it with a question mark? My aim is to remind all of us who don’t live in Southern California what the intonation there may sound like to us? And it might also be a good idea to get used to it, because new research suggests that it’s not just for Valley Girls anymore?

Okay, you’re ready to kill me and I can’t stand it anymore anyway. But here’s the point made by linguistic researchers at the Acoustical Society of America meeting now under way in San Francisco: Uptalk appears to be on the rise, to the point that it’s exceedingly widespread in both genders among young Southern Californians who speak what we could call So Cal English.

Amanda Ritchart, a linguistics graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, recorded two dozen college-age southern Californians, about half male and half female, from different ethnic and economic backgrounds, and analyzed their speech as they performed a couple of tasks: giving instructions on a map and retelling what happened in a video clip.

She found that all of them used uptalk, though the women did it more than the men.

The implications: Uptalk is looking more and more like part of a widespread Southern Californian dialect. To avoid misunderstandings, it may be wise to accept that. Amanda Ritchart, who admits to some uptalking herself, says that when Southern Californians speak to outsiders, they may “come across as ditzy or stupid or maybe unassertive or timid or something.” But, she says, “Because everyone does it, obviously that’s not true. And that’s why it kind of helps to break those stereotypes. We’re not confused. We’re not stupid. We just talk like that.”

Ritchart’s research also identified a clear difference in tone between when a So Cal English speaker asks a question or makes a statement, even though both have a rise at the end. The rise in a statement comes later than the rise for a question. Though you might not catch that as an outsider, its clear to another uptalker.

And by the way, you standard English snobs, people who do not use uptalk can come across as somewhat unfriendly or rude to Southern Californians. And for So Cal English speakers, uptalk simply sounds polite — to the point that Ritchart says that when she’s at a coffee shop and the barista asks what name to put on her order, she says “Amanda?” Obviously not because she’s questioning her own name — she’s just speaking her native dialect. Continue reading

Daily Rounds: Health Care Lawsuit On Again; Chelation Crackdown; Bilingualism For Alzheimer’s; Digital Health Records Unveil Abuse; PCB’s In Kingergarten

Challenge to Health Care Law to Advance – NYTimes.com “In a foreboding ruling for the Obama administration, a federal judge in Florida decreed Thursday that a legal challenge to the new health care law by officials from 20 states could move forward and warned that he would have to be persuaded that its keystone provision — a requirement that most Americans obtain insurance — is constitutional. ‘At this stage in the litigation, this is not even a close call,’ wrote Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., before asserting that the insurance mandate was an unprecedented exercise of Congressional authority.” (The New York Times)

FDA Warns Heavy Metal Therapy Not Proven to Cure Autism, Hardened Arteries : Shots – Health News Blog : NPR (npr.org) “The agency issued eight warning letters today to companies marketing chelation products without a prescription, and is telling patients not to use them. ‘FDA is concerned that patients will delay seeking proven, sometimes essential medical care, when relying on unproven OTC chelation products to treat serious conditions such as heart and blood vessel disease,’ the FDA said in a statement.”

Can bilingualism improve your brain's multitasking power? – latimes.com “As UCLA linguist Jared Diamond writes in an editorial in the journal Science, knowing more than one language could improve your multitasking skills from infancy and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in old age.” (Los Angeles Times)

Digital Records Aid Discovery of Drugs' Side Effects – WSJ.com “The study, at Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's hospitals in Boston and sponsored by Pfizer Inc., showed a large increase in reporting of adverse events to the Food and Drug Administration once doctors used an automated tool. “(Wall Street Journal)

PCBs continue to force Estabrook kindergarteners out of classrooms – Lexington – Your Town – Boston.com “Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash informed parents in a letter Thursday that the latest round of testing in the kindergarten wing of the 49-year-old school did not show a reduction in PCBs, and the district is now unsure if it can lower levels of the chemical to federal guidelines for kindergarten-age children.” (Boston Globe)