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The Language files

Beginning a sentence with the word "so"

Vocal fry and the high-rising terminal

A large number of American women have mysteriously adopted two speech peculiarities in the last few decades.

• One is the "vocal fry," and it produces a creaking, popping sound accompanying a lowering pitch. It is in fact an expression of the lowest pitch that a human larynx can acheive, around two octaves below normal register.

• The other change has been the broadened use of the "high rising terminal." This is an increasing pitch at the end of a sentence, making it sound like a question.

Scholars debate the origins of HRT in the U.S. (and compare it with that of Australia, with which it may or may not share an origin.) In any case, academia suggests conservatively that the U.S. manifestation of HRT probably began in Southern California or the Pacific Northwest.

Anybody who grew up on the west coast at that time probably believes that high-rising terminal came from "valleyspeak" — young affluent women in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.

Even though valley-girl-speak was ridiculed as it reached the wider culture, it spread madly, and can now be heard nationwide — for some reason.