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As one of the world’s most diverse countries, the USA has a rich variety of accents and dialects. Many of them are tied to the ethnic background of their carriers (Italian American accent, for example) or their geographic location (such as Southern dialect), some of them reflect the socioeconomic status of the speakers. The present explorative essay will be focused on two of the American dialects that have been gaining popularity over the last couple of decades – the Valley girl speak (also known as uptalk) and vocal fry.
Historically, the two dialects have not been known long. In particular, uptalk started to be discussed in the 1990s; this term is often used interchangeably with the Valley girl talk. However, Connie Chung differentiated between the two in her segment from the middle of the 90s stating that Valley girl speak is known for the frequent use of the words “like” and “totally” whereas uptalk is characterized by the rise in intonation at the end of the sentences making them sound like questions (“Up Talking with Connie Chung 1994”).
As for the vocal fry, it is the effect opposite to what occurs in uptalk; instead of rising at the end of the sentence, the voice falls turning into a creaky sound (“Kardashians’ “Vocal Fry” Fad’s Effect on the Voice”). Doctors say that the popularity of the vocal fry may be harmful to people’s throats and vocal cords because it exhausts the speakers’ vocal apparatus and can cause lesions or swelling in the throat (“Kardashians’ “Vocal Fry” Fad’s Effect on the Voice”).
Geographically, the two dialects are not clearly associated with particular regions; however, the term ‘Valley girl speak’, as well as uptalk to which it is frequently likened, points at the specific location where the most of the speakers of these dialects should come from.
Sociocultural and stylistic aspects
Some of the more prominent aspects of the dialects under discussion are their social and stylistic features. In particular, the use of uptalk, the Valley girl speak, and vocal fry seems to be extremely enhanced and popularized by the popular culture. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, uptalk and Valley girl speak were used in very popular movies such as Clueless and Valley Girl. In the contemporary popular culture, vocal fry is very common in TV series such as Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, and Flash, to name a few; also, it is a common phenomenon in the modern pop music where some of it its most famous carriers are Britney Spears and Kesha with their typical creaky voices. Moreover, on reality TV, the Kardashian family members are some of the well-known speakers using vocal fry.
Seeing the identities, values, and group stereotypes behind these dialects (wealthy females, predominantly white, coming from high social status families, and rich areas), one can easily notice that the three forms of speaking are willingly inherited and reproduced by the people who wish to sound like their favorite celebrities with a high social power and political impact.
“Kardashians’ “Vocal Fry” Fad’s Effect on the Voice.” YouTube, uploaded by MightyFalcon2011. 2013. Web.
“Up Talking with Connie Chung 1994.” YouTube, uploaded by Kevin Nooan. 2013. Web.