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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Young women influence language most and are ruining it

    The word “like” is the defining marker of speech for Valley Girls. Overusing interjectings such as “like,” and elongating words have often been markers of stupidity and immaturity, but researchers say this vocal trend is merely part of linguistic evolution, and women are setting the trend. However, the determination of how seriously these trends can be taken, is questionable.

    Even though most of us would consider this way of speaking a forced one, fake and similar to a speech impediment, its role in society is more sophisticated than originally thought. Instead of representing how teenagers talk to their parents, research shows that it serves as a function of transition and indication within conversations.

    According to The New York Times, linguists say young women and teenagers deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang.

    “They’re not just using (these embellishments) because they’re girls,” Penny Eckert, a linguist professor at Stanford University, said in the article. “They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.”

    Young women are changing modern language and their vocal trends may be markers of evolution in the linguistics field. The study shows that women use language and style shifts to build relationships and establish themselves in social settings.

    Take Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” for example. She uses many of the vocal trends commonly associated with ditsy girls. However, she represents how women sound today and her use of tone and language establishes a connection with modern young women.

    Researchers say girls embellishing phrases and word endings are conveying a more specific meaning, which is purposeful and not just a representation of the immaturity of their dialect.

    Another example of a popular vocal trend set by women is uptalk, which is ending sentences with the tone of sounding like a question. Cynthia McLemore, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times that uptalk is commonly used as a form of establishing authority among women. Men, on the other hand, who demonstrate uptalk within conversations use it in the opposite way. For them it is used to sound friendly without asserting power.

    Adults, who might scoff at this speech trend, are just as guilty of it. According to the article, in the past 20 years, uptalk has spread to adults of all ages and crossed gender lines. “I’ve heard grandfathers and grandmothers use it,” said David Crystal, a professor of linguistics at Bangor University in Wales. “I occasionally use it myself.”

    If linguistics professors and grandparents are using it, clearly this trend has cemented itself in the speech pattern of modern society. But how far is society willing to let its language be dictated by teenage girls?

    Young women hold the power of setting vocal trends, but some of these trends should be kept from expanding through society. It is unsettling to think that this Valley Girl way of speaking is a social evolution of linguistics. If more of this is what’s to come in the future, it will surely be the death of language and classy conversation.

    — Rebecca Miller is a junior studying photography and journalism. She can be reached at on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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