In this week’s post, Abby Kaplan, author of Women Talk More than Men…And Other Myths about Language Explained, investigates the phenomenon of “Uptalk” and the myths and facts surrounding it.
Young people these days, their intonation is really strange? And all their sentences sound like questions? Which makes them sound like they’re not sure of anything?
Final rising pitch – popularly known as “uptalk” – is an intonation pattern that involves rising pitch at the end of a sentence. It has been documented throughout the English-speaking world: in the US, Australia, and New Zealand; it has also been documented among ELT students.
Uptalk is an occasional topic of comment in the popular media, and the general assessment is that it’s a Bad Thing. The story usually goes like this: Uptalk is a recent phenomenon, and it’s used mostly by young people – especially young women. It happens because speakers aren’t sure of themselves or can’t commit to what they’re saying. It’s annoying, and people should stop doing it. One columnist calls it a “nasty habit…. It’s gotten all out of control. These days even statements about which there should be no question or doubt are presented in this tentative, timid and deferential manner.”