View Full Version : Uptalk, or the High Rising Terminal

05-21-2007, 04:00 AM
When and were did this thing (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article1082598.ece) begin? Many attribute the rising inflection that makes a declarative statement sound like a question to Moon Unit Zappa and her pals in the San Fernando Valley. However, it seems to be a world-wide trend in several languages.

Even though Bush has started doing it in his speeches, it's most commonly heard from the young. For those of you who write (or read) YA fiction, how do you indicate this annoying (to me, anyway) sing-song inflection in print?

05-21-2007, 11:40 AM
I think you just add a question mark? And then, like, others know you're making a, a statement that's like a question? But, like, it's there, you know, for them to work with?

05-22-2007, 03:59 AM
When and were did this thing (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article1082598.ece) begin?


05-22-2007, 05:15 AM
It makes me wonder how this tone of voice is transmitted in text messaging, but I suppose it's always implied.

It's funny, when Zappa's "Valley Girl" song came out circa 1982, I knew one 'girl' about age 18 who talked that way, she was from an upper-class household (this was in Atlanta). Less than ten years later I was on a college campus and all the female students I heard were talking that way. Then I started hearing that 'accent' in the voices of young female radio and TV announcers.

So this article is, like, so September Tenth...

01-17-2010, 02:50 AM
I don't speak Spanish, although I understand it a little. I don't speak any of the other romance languages either, although I do have some Latin. My ignorance of Spanish gave me an interesting recent experience -- I spent the past week surrounded by young and middle-age males, mostly construction workers, speaking Spanish. Since I don't know the language, I listened to the tone and structure of what they were saying. It sounded to me that half the sentences at least ended with an upward inflection. Perhaps the increasing use of the terminal interrogative in common speech might in part relate to the increasing number of Spanish speakers in the population.

I also noticed another interesting aspect of this. Where I live there are a fair number of people who have an accent, in English, that one would associate with a person whose native language is Spanish. Yet many of these folks know very little Spanish. In effect, they have the accent without the underlying reason for the accent. And they speak with a fair amount of terminal interrogative inflection.

Any comments from Spanish speakers?

01-17-2010, 12:21 PM
Since the article quotes language log as an important source, and I've been following the blog for years, I can provide links to the most important posts on uptalk. Well, what I think are the most important posts. I only skimmed these posts back then, because phonology isn't my main point of interest.

This ( is the post that the article quoted.

Here (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=568)'s a very similar but more detailed post, in which Lieberman mentions several British dialects that default to uptalk.

And here (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=586) we have a discussion of the phonetic features and a couple of comments on function.

The upshot is that there has been a recent increase in uptalk in America, but Lieberman thinks that the "young/female/insecure" attributes of the speakers is a stereotype propagated by selective attention and "outgroup illusion". Recent American uptalk appears to be situational, rather than the default as in some of the English, Scottish and Irish accents. Studies show that in some situations uptalk is associated with higher social power, but since uptalk is not yet phonetically defined enough, we ought to be careful not to compare apples with pears.

06-07-2011, 12:21 AM
I am seeing Uptalk being successfully challenged in my profession. I am a licensed court interpreter and transcriptionist. When interpreting we are required to carry the same inflection but when the person responding speaks continuously in an uptalk mode, the attorney or the judge will actually bring their attention to the fact that they sound like they are asking a question as opposed to responding or relating facts.
When I am transcribing, uptalk grates on my nerves because I do hear a question and I have to replay the section over and over. I will say this, I mostly hear uptalk used when testimony is being given by a person who is enjoying the attention.