According to a recent study, the Valley Girl accent has spread beyond the SFV Malls of yesteryear. Yup, someone did a study on SoCal accents and why we talk this way. Incidentally, this explains why this NorCal girl has failed to assimilate into the culture down here even though i've started adding a definite article in front of my freeway numbers, cuz when in Rome... right? (ETA: Since there's a lot of discussion on accents, i highly recommend visiting this project that Stanford is doing to hear some of the different accents:http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/augu… )
Some fave quotes:
When linguistics professor Thomas Linneman studied episodes of Jeopardy! looking for uptalk, he found that the more successful women spoke with the inflection. This baffled him because "uptalk is so clearly linked to uncertainty" and the relationship between the dialect and female winners was "exactly the opposite of what one would expect." The only explanation for this occurrence Linneman offers is that the women are compensating for their intelligence because society tells them that being smart isn't hot. So they dumb it down, ensuring that their success doesn't temper with the existing gender hierarchy.
A new paper authored by linguistics professors Amanda Ritchart and Amalia Arvanti asks, "Do we all speak like Valley Girls?" The answer is basically yes, if you're young and from southern California. After studying the speech patterns of native southern Californian undergraduates (12 female, 11 male), Ritchart and Arvanti determined that each participant spoke with the rising lilt, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background. When making a statement, their pitch would rise as if they were asking a question, with a subtle difference when the pitch began to rise. (For statements, it's later.) "It appears that most young SoCal English speakers use uptalk frequently and in several situations," the authors write. "Uptalk is no longer just a part of Valley Girl speak."
At what point will women's voices stop being judged for what they imply, and just be seen as the byproduct of having a larynx? This probably won't happen all too soon, but in the opinion of Amanda Hess, "As women gain status and power in the professional world, young women may not be forced to carefully modify totally benign aspects of their behavior in order to be heard."