Girl Talk

We’re, like, responsible for linguistic evolution, right?

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According to psycholinguistic researchers, Valley Girls are responsible for a growing linguistic trend that some experts are suggesting will be the downfall of the English lexicon.

Vocal fry or Glottal scrape is a relatively new trend among predominantly young, white American girls. Britney, Ke$ha and the Kardashians all employ these borderline guttural croaks. Once a clinically diagnosed speech disorder, the style has now been recognised by speech therapists as the new Valley Girl “fry”.

The typically American Valley Girl 'uptalk' towards the end of a sentence turned declarative statements into questions. Vocal fry is more gritty than its predecessor. Where Valley Girls used a cutesy, lilting pitch based in their higher registers, vocal frying constricts the larynx cartilage causing the vocal folds to sandwich against each other. Dropping the vocal register from a squeaky Paris Hilton baby-voice, down to a low rattling hyper-sexual glottalization, often octaves lower. Mmm, sexy, mashed vocal chords – so hot. The trend suggests a change not only within the lexicon but more importantly, a shift in our cultural psychology and the way we interact with each other.

Valley Girl speak was generally perceived as overly feminine, soft and almost submissive, whereas vocal fryers could be seen as more masculine, gruff and derisive. Women’s voices are, on average, an octave higher than a man’s. In order to properly fry the vocals, a woman has to physically change the muscles in her throat, dropping her voice into those gravelly registers to vibrate the larynx at a lower frequency. It begs the question; why?

Where Valley Girls used a cutesy, lilting pitch, vocal frying constricts the larynx cartilage causing the vocal folds to sandwich against each other

It’s Britney, bitch. Well, her and the plethora of poptards infiltrating and actually changing the linguistic markers of the American English landscape. Like, duh. Instead of slamming these new evolutionary markers as blights on our linguistic landscape, we should be celebrating the trailblazers of modern phonetic pioneering. Without them, we’d probably still be speaking like Shakespearean beef-witted blind-worms, and ain't nobody got time for that. 

The fifties gave us jive talk. The seventies gave us Valleyspeak, and the nineties gave us dope slang. So where are we now? Linguistic trends and sociolects are generally formed from environmental influences. Social groups, television, music and general subcultural shifts are all responsible for these new paralanguages. It’s a global meta-communication that we all feed and contribute to without really noticing it.

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