Friday, December 06, 2013

Valley girl talk

Last summer we took a short drive through the San Fernando Valley on our way from Thousand Oaks to Griffith Park. I happened to mention "valley talk" ("uptalk") but none of us could do a good job of talking like a teenage girl from the valley.

That's a shame because now it looks like Valley girl speak is, like, on the rise! I believe it. Not only have I heard girls speak like this on the university campus here in Toronto but I've even heard this language in Ottawa and that's about as far away from California as you can get.

I hope my granddaughter and grandson don't grow up speaking like this. They live in Los Angeles.


Moon Unit Zappa Valley Girl by mrjyn


34 comments:

  1. A rising terminal intonation in declarative sentences ("uptalk") is common in Australia; in Britain, it has long been a feature of Scouse (in Liverpool) and a number of regional accents, e.g. in the West Country and in Northern Ireland. It is now virally spreading in London, especially among young female speakers, perhaps due to the combined influence of Aussie soap operas and Hollywood sitcoms. The overuse of "like" is not exclusively a Valley phenomenon either. Some Irish speakers use "like" like a punctuation all the time, like.

    Wow, man, it's totally awsome how hella quickly new accents and dialects can, like, emerge. The now famous California vowel shift was officially discovered and named by linguists as recently as 1980.

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    1. Did anybody ever tell you there is an easier way to pretend to know the English language? In NA (North America) we tend to write in a sort of simpler language. Larry and the team can do better. But it seems proper to express ones thought not in a language that may make you appear arrogant, aloof and unapproachable.
      The tendency is toward making sure everybody understands. I think.

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    2. You make me laugh. What is your contribution to this subject? I'm talking personal?

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    3. LouiseG, I get the impression that you haven't looked at Piotr's profile.

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    4. it has long been a feature of Scouse (in Liverpool)

      Hey, I resent that! OK, I'm not particularly fond of my Liverpool accent (modulated also by years spent a bit further north), but I'm not aware that [we/they] have quite that same annoying, questioning quality that invites the listener to repeatedly indicate that they are following along!

      More typical is this, where most sentences go the other way, emphatic rather than querying. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOdO_8IiM3o#t=185)

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    5. Allan, I'm guilty of an oversimplification. There are various patterns of rising pitch that shouldn't be lumped together. What I should have said is that there are a number of urban accents in northern Britain (including for example Brummie, Geordie, Glaswegian, Belfast, and some varieties of Welsh English, but excluding Edinburgh and most rural dialects, see Cruttenden 1997: 133-134) where terminal rising tones are much more widespread than in mainstream Southern British English. The Liverpudlian ones are not very similar to the Valley uptalk (or Australian intonations), and don't actually sound like yes/no questions; but they do produce an impression of (unintended) non-finality or tentativeness in a Southern listener.

      The intonation contours of Scouse have received less attention than they deserve. Knowles 1974 (his PhD thesis) and 1978 are still the most important references, though some instrumental acoustic analyses have been published in the past decade. The "unexpected declarative rises" in Scouse include the "steep fall + low rise" pattern, also known as "the low bounce" (often, by the way, involving sentences with like at the end, as in I don't use it my◝self, ◞like), and the real Scouse speciality -- "rise + plateau", called "the step" by Knowles: the pitch is very low on the syllable carrying the main stress, but then it rises to a high level tone which either stays level to the end of the sentence or drops slightly on the last syllable. In my personal experience, I find it one of the most conspicuous features of Scouse intonation, though it isn't quite unique to Liverpool (it's also one of the most common patterns in Belfast, for example).

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    6. Piotr, this is way off topic, but...

      I was wondering if you as a linguist could assess the qualifications of ID proponent and alleged "linguist" John Oller. You know the IDiots exaggerate their credentials. According to Barbara Forrest, who hilariously exposes Oller's dishonesty, he was an English professor at UCLA who later took to calling himself a "linguist."

      If you're not too busy, could you maybe look up his publications, if any, and see if they're in reputable journals?

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    7. OK, Diogenes, but I wouldn't like to use Larry's blog for such purposes. If you e-mail me (gpiotr[at]wa.amu.edu.pl), I'll tell you what I've found.

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  2. Professor Moran. Congratulation on your beautiful family. Your daughter has your eyes. I hope she is as smart as you are. She must be

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  3. Re LouseG

    Of course she's smarter then the good professor. She's an astrophysicist.

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  4. Thanks. Well, by now she must know why certain particles respond when someone looks at them. This is a fundamental teaching of quantum mechanics.

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    1. It's always interesting how people never sound stupider than when they think they're sounding smart.

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    2. I thought Louise was referring to QM Observer Effect...? You have never heard of it? Somehow that doesn't surprise me...That's why you think Louise is stupid, when in reality, it applies to you....

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    3. What is being referred to here as the observer effect is illustrated by the following. A photon impinging on a surface with two slits is considered to pass through both slits (Copenhagen interpretation of QM). However, if one attempts to observe this, the wave function describing the photon collapses and the photon will be seen to pass through one slit or the other. This is a consequence of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle where the act of observing a system has an effect on what is observed.

      An alternative to the collapsing wave function hypothesis, known as the many worlds interpretation of QM, has been proposed. In this explanation, it is hypothesized that there is a parallel universe to ours where an observer is preforming the same experiment at the same time and will observe the photon passing through the other slit.

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    4. I thought Louise was referring to QM Observer Effect...? You have never heard of it?

      I'm quite aware of it. Do you, like LouiseG, think it is accurately described by saying "certain particles respond when someone looks at them"? I wonder if LouiseG could summarize her understanding of quantum mechanics, since she feels she is qualified to disparage it.

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    5. LouiseG gave us the Kindergarten Intrerpretation of quantum mechanics:

      Certain particles respond when someone looks at them.

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    6. She also managed to sneak in another insult against Larry's family, though I'm sure she'll deny that's what she was doing.

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    7. Maybe Louise was fully aware that your backgrounds in science are pretty weak when it comes to QM... I'm mean... you don't have to pretend that linguists and psychiatrists are taught detailed QM at universities even these days....

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    8. Quest: I'm mean...

      If you say so...

      Anyway, don't underrate other people's expertise. Linguistic and psychiatric help is exactly what you need, if your posts are anything to go by.

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    9. Re Quest

      As someone with a PhD in elementary particle physics, my expertise in QM is pretty damn good.

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    10. siorowksi:

      Yeah...that's the most you can offer instead of arguments...
      just like you have proven it on the subject of origins of life... I still laugh out loud when each time I read any of your comments....I'm... I don't really read them anymore ...I just admire your arrogance after your public humiliation on that theme... lol...

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  5. Speaking of Moon Unit, I met her dad, Frank Zappa, in a tavern a long time ago in Portland, Oregon. He was in town to do a concert and promote his movie 'Baby Snakes'. I had seen the movie just a few days earlier.

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    1. It was a brief meeting and he was friendly. I had been sitting by myself at a small table next to the dance floor and was up having a last dance with some girl, and when the song ended I turned to leave (it was about midnight and I had to work the next say) and I saw Zappa's body guard leaning against a wall near where I had been sitting. I then noticed Frank Zappa sitting at 'my' table. Just about then the rest of the people in the tavern had started to recognize him and there was what I'd call a stir and murmur throughout the place. Anyway, I walked up to him, he stood up, we shook hands, and I told him I had recognized his body guard from seeing him in the Baby Snakes movie. He asked me what I thought of the movie and I told him I liked it. Then I told him that a girl that I was dating was going to be pissed that she declined to go out with me that night. She was the one who invited me to the movie and she LOVED Frank Zappa. When I told him that she was nuts about him he instantly asked "Where is she?" That cracked me up because his tone of voice and expression was that of a typical guy who was open to an easy opportunity, if you know what I mean. There may have been a few other things said but I don't remember but I did say that I had to go and that I would tell that girl that I had met him there. We bid each other goodnight and I left, as a line of people was starting to form behind me.

      When I told that girl I was dating that I met Frank Zappa she didn't believe me at first but then word got around that he was at that tavern that night and she knew that I often went there, and I had invited her to go there with me that night. I'm sure that if she had been with me Zappa would have easily snatched her away from me. She was a very good looking redhead with a body to die for. Ah, the good ol' days. :)

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    2. That should be next day, not next say. I need new glasses.

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  6. Aspects of Valspeak are becoming common in the way many people speak.

    If you want a good laugh, watch an episode of "The Californians" on Saturday Night Live.

    ~~ Paul

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  7. Valley Girl-speak on the rise and Boontling, another California dialect, is waning. Sad.

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    1. Not many folks left in the Anderson Valley to boont it.

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    2. Go for the Boontling, stay for the beer.

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    3. Well, there are a few hundred Boonters left, if that, and there are easily a couple of hundred thousand girls in the San Fernando Valley. Boontling isn't a dialect, strictly speaking, but rather an in-group lexical register (or "cryptolect"). Perhaps some elements of Boontling could be saved if it were hybridised with some more successful variety -- Valleyspeak, perhaps?

      Aww my gahd! Boont's kinda really loosing bahl harpers to the max and it's like totally pikin' to the dusties, can you imagine?

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    4. Aww my gahd! Boont's kinda really loosing bahl harpers to the max and it's like totally pikin' to the dusties, can you imagine?


      ...would that be a pidgin? (I'm obviously not a linguist)

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    5. A mixed dialect (retaining the normal if somewhat reduced syntax of Valley English). A true pidgin takes the lexicon(s) of one (or more) of its source languages (normally the dominant one), simplifies it phonologically and morphologically, resets the syntax and inflectional morphology to zero and builds very simple grammatical structures from scratch, sometimes borrowing features from the local languages. As stabler and more sophisticated structures emerge, the pidgin may be adopted as the first language of a community, and it evolves into a fully-fledged "creole" language. Here is a real example (from the English-based Torres Strait Creole):

      Yu go zam tumas, leg blo yu go brok 'If you jump about too much, you'll break your leg'.

      All the roots here are more or less recognisably English (literally: "you go jump too-much, leg belong you go broken"), though they are often co-opted in new functions, like "belong" becoming a possessive preposition.

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  8. Thanks, that's very interesting. I was actually wondering what the difference between pidgin and creole was as well.

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