Friday, January 03, 2014

University Researchers Miss the Mark on 'Myth' of Valley Girl Speak in the Valley

'Clueless' courtesy of Paramount Pictures via New York Times blog post

By confusing the Valley Girl Speak phenomenon in Encino (and adjacent parts of the San Fernando Valley) with the larger phenomenon of 'uptalk', researchers from the University of San Diego - none of whom, I assume, were there when it happened  - have misunderstood what made Valley Girl Speak unique - or why it was quickly picked up by the film and TV industries.  Here is the New York Times post on the subject:
Are you still making fun of young women for talking like Valley Girls?
Do you assume that because their statements end in a hesitant, rising quaver (“My name is Brittany?”) they are shallow, scattered or uncertain? Even that they sound — how to say this politely? is there any way? — intellectually your inferior?
For years, sociologists and linguists have studied that lilt, referring to it as “uptalk” or “high-rising intonation.” They found its presence in large pockets throughout the English-speaking world — Australia? England? New Zealand? Some date it to the 1950s, others say it is centuries old.Seriously?
In America, it became popularized during the 1980s as Valley Girl Speak, presumably inspired by Frank Zappa’s hit 1982 song “Valley Girl,” a derisive reference to the young white women of California’s San Fernando Valley who spoke it as their own dialect. Films like “Heathers” and “Clueless” perpetuated and parodied the stereotype of the speech and its purported lifestyle.
But scholars have found that the rising inflection can suggest a range of nuanced meanings in different geographical areas and conversational contexts. Another myth busted: its use is not exclusive to young women.

Here is the response I made on Kate Coe's facebook post on the subject.
These researchers totally missed the real 'cause' of Valley Girl Speak. Uptalk may have been part of it, but when I first noticed it, it was clearly a combination of surfer lingo with the nasal accents of Long Island (and other Bridge and Tunnel accents of transplanted New Yorkers), particularly in the South of the Boulevard San Fernando Valley communities of Encino and Sherman Oaks, both of which had large Jewish communities of ex-New Yorkers who also happened to be in the entertainment industry. And that explains why the film and TV industries picked up on the trend so fast.

No comments: