Young Women: Our Linguistic Pioneers?

Their speech patterns set trends the rest of us follow, say experts
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2012 4:08 PM CST
Young Women: Our Linguistic Pioneers?
Young women tend to drive linguistic trends.   (Shutterstock)

Girls often get mocked for their uptalking—ending sentences at a higher pitch—or frequent use of "like." But it's time to give them credit for leading the way when it comes to language patterns, linguists tell the New York Times. "If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry," a Britney-esque growl at the end of a sentence, "it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid," says a linguistics professor.

"The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships." Indeed, young people tend to pick up on such trends first, "and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average," says another expert. Researchers aren't sure why it is that women pioneer such patterns: Perhaps it's because of their social awareness or a means of exerting power. Regardless, some of the trends stick: "Like" used "apparently without meaning or syntactic function" has been acknowledged in Webster's. (Read more talking stories.)

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