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Vocal fry and high-rising terminal

American girl-talk hits the big-time

American women have adopted two speech peculiarities in recent years.

• One is "vocal fry," — the creaking, popping sound accompanying a lowering pitch. It is in fact the lowest pitch that a human larynx can acheive, around two octaves below normal voice register.

• The other change, the "high rising terminal," 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 knows that it came from "valley girl" talk.

Even though valley-girl-speak was ridiculed as it encroached upon wider culture, it spread madly, and can now be heard nationwide in the high-rising terminal.


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