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I know, I know late again! Day #9 blog that is being posted on day 10.

I was listening to a groups of teenagers speaking with each other the other day and I was jerked into socio-linguist mode for the first time in many years.

When I was a furry Masters student at Australian National University , there was a paper presented by a friend of mine – more about her in a minute – where she discussed the possible reasons for upward inflection at the end of sentences by female teenagers.  Her findings were not taken very well by the predominantly male academic audience at the time.  It had to with levels of self-esteem, the need to feel validated and a sense of hesitancy and doubt in being accepted.

What I am talking about here is the tendency to lift the voice at the end of a sentence whether it is a question or not. It was very prevalent at during the 80s and 90s.  I guess it has been continuing as a speech pattern since then but I haven’t been really aware.

McDonald’s have been legitimately training their staff for years to have a rising inflection in their tone and that’s perfectly valid because they are asking you a real question.

Just recently though, I had the opportunity to listen (no, I was not eavesdropping!) to a group of six or so teenagers.  I was startled to hear the boys in the group using the speech pattern that I had recognised as largely a female marker from that time in the distant past!

I admit this is true nerdsville but I can’t resist aligning this speech pattern with the overuse of the word ‘like’.  Many sentences/thoughts are diluted permanently by the damaging presence of ‘like’ inserted into every pause.

This would be a fascinating study to do!  The prevalence of ‘like’ and rising intonation in teenaged speakers of English. My friend is now an Associate Professor at Roskilde University.

The paper that she wrote morphed into a chapter in this book.

The language game : papers in memory of Donald C. Laycock

Until next time

Aunt Em


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