A few years ago, when you were in Oxford finishing your thesis, you came to one of my lectures on language and gender. So I was disappointed when I saw your latest piece in the Guardian, exhorting young women to stop using ‘destructive speech patterns’. Evidently I did a piss-poor job of explaining the basics of my subject. Professional pride compels me to give it another try.
The patterns you’re complaining about, vocal fry and uptalk (aka creaky voice and high rising terminal intonation) are not new phenomena in English, but in recent years they’ve become more noticeable because more people are using them more frequently. Like most such shifts, this one started among younger speakers. In language-use as in other practices of self-expression (like fashion, music and art), it’s the rising generation—adolescents and young adults—who tend to be the innovators. And in the case of language…
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