Uptalk is that linguistic tic originating in Southern California where statements sound like questions? and Southern Californians still love it more than pretty much any other speakers. But the oldsters often find it confusing: are you asking me a question?? they Andy Rooney. So, in "one of the first rigorous linguistic studies of the Southern Californian variety of English," UCSD grad student/Temecula native Amanda Ritchart looked at the way Southern Californians use uptalk. She and her adviser recorded native SoCal speakers giving directions and recounting a sitcom scene and found that "when the speakers were asking a question, their increase in pitch was more pronounced and would begin earlier in the sentence," according to the Washington Post. Speakers would always uptalk when asking a question, but only uptalked 16 percent of the time when they were making a simple statement (and 45 percent when "floor-holding," or pausing while indicating they were going to keep speaking). They also found that women uptalk "significantly more" than men, have "significantly larger rises" than men, and start their rises "significantly later on in the utterance than male speakers." In other words: men sound more sure of themselves. Uh, duh!
Meanwhile, over at linguistics blog Language Log, Mark Liberman has been writing for a while now on a suspicion he has that Valley Girl uptalk "might in fact have originated with the characteristically rising intonational patterns of northern England, Scotland, and Ireland, by way of the Scots-Irish immigrants who migrated to California in the 1930s Dust Bowl exodus." Last month he shared several audio examples of SoCal's most iconic Okie, Woody Guthrie, uptalking during an interview with folklorist Alan Lomax.
· Do We All Speak Like Valley Girls? Uptalk in Southern Californian English [Acoustics.org]