3 Comments

  1. Tom
    February 29, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

    Very good start at analyzing a very unique phenomenon. I would submit that there are three elements to (mainly) female millennial-speak. Those are: (1) uptalk; (2) vocal fry; and (3) the accented pronunciation of vowels. Much has been said about the first two, but little about the last one which is quite prevalent and part of the overall affectation. The combination is most stunning because it seems to be independent of regional accents–this is the first generational accent and it is, as you suggest, quite phony and annoying. In other words, whereas the “valley girl” affectation was regional, this one is so widespread that it supersedes family and regional accents. It’s very difficult to replicate and describe the third element (mispronunciation of vowels) but it has a bit of the valley girl aspect but is, like vocal fry, typically an attempt to appear sophisticated, educated, and worldly. In my view it is the most ubiquitous of the three elements of millennial female-speak and is, as you note, particularly evident in college graduates. There’s obviously a heavy college-based social mimicry element to this. It is also notable that most millennial males are not afflicted by this affectation. This is more than the typical use of new slang–it is part of social media and reality TV dysfunction.

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    • Anne Boysen
      February 29, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

      Interesting! I have not heard accented pronunciation of vowels. Do you have an example or a video link? It would be interesting to try to recognize this pattern.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Best Regards,
      Anne

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  2. Tom
    April 14, 2016 @ 7:32 pm

    Anne:
    Sorry for the delay. See any YouTube video by Alexandra Suich, an editor for _The Economist_. She demonstrates all three. The vowels are what I call “half-vowels.” For example, the short “a” is pronounced half-way between short “a” and “o”. The short “e” is pronounced half-way between short “e” and “a”. I want to reinforce that the distinction between an affectation in speech and other accents is that “natural” accents are learned while young when the brain is plastic and mimicry is at its height. So a Southern accent comes from mimicking your parents or siblings or friends. The millennial affectation is something (mainly) young women pick up in their teens and twenties where other cognitive factors besides mimicry come to the fore, such as wanting to sound sophisticated or to mimic a popular media star. Take, for example, Madonna’s foray into a British accent–that’s an affectation. Her Michigan Italian parents gave her a natural accent which didn’t fit somehow with her self-image. That is my observation and am open to other interpretations, but that accent is heavy and prevalent in the college-educated female millennials I listen to.

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