12 January 2012

The Valley Girl Lift

I'm trying to train Asa away from Sentence Lifting? But he doesn't even seem aware that he does it? And now he's getting annoyed with me? But not as annoyed as I am with sentence lifting?

You can get anywhere from here.
Just not where you were planning.
The 80s were my college years—the whole decade. (Hey, I went to grad school.) And that effectively makes the 80s my decade. During that time, I lived in Southern California.

When Frank and Moon Zappa hit the radio waves with the song "Valley Girl," well, ha ha ha, we all laughed. Yes, with LA/San Diego our playground, it was the wicked truth that there were plenty of girls we knew who sounded exactly like that.

As you may recall—depending on where you were in the 80s—
Moon Zappa provided the voice of the "Valley Girl."

Lindsay Lohan, the quintessential
Valley Girl,
at Sherman Oaks Galleria.
 (You can't
see Linds because she's inside.)

Like, OH MY GOD!?
Encino is, like, 

There's, like, the Galleria?
And, like, all these, like, 
really great shoe stores?
I love going into, like, 

clothing stores and stuff?
I, like, buy the neatest mini-skirts and stuff?

It's, like, so BITCHIN cuz, 
like, everybody's, like,
super-super nice...?
It's, like, so BITCHIN...

 Hear Moon for yourself, if you must:

She's a valley girl,
She's a valley girl,
She's a valley girl,
  She's a...                

I don't think we'd have been quite so cavalier about valley girl speech if we'd known that more than twenty years later our children would talk like that as a matter of course. God help us all, but especially me.

As a grammarian, I know that lifting the tone at the end of a sentence—interrogative or declarative—is supposed to indicate that you are asking a question for which you expect an answer. The lifting phenomenon in valley girl speech—and the recently emergent valley boy speech (see: Asa)—seems to  ask for confirmation of the listener's attention. If that's true, then it's analogous to Standard English "tag questions."  Fredrick lives on the island, right? You know they'll be hunting, don't you?

Linguistic research indicates that women use tag questions far more than men. And the valley girl lift has been almost exclusively a female speech pattern until recently. It's still far more widely found in the speech of girls and women than men and boys. 

One might suggest that it's because women can never really be sure that men are listening.

He's a good boy.
He fears me.

But Asa WILL listen to me about this sentence lifting...? Or, like, I won't stand for it?  

1 comment:

  1. That's interesting that this intonation may be linked to a desire for confirmation.

    You know I've been learning Japanese, and one of the most difficult things for me has been getting the intonation of sentences ending in "yo" right. "Yo" is a particle that provides emphasis or certainty, yet it's said with a rising intonation almost like a question. It's very hard to reconcile the meaning and intonation.

    Curiously, in British English, questions often have a falling intonation.