You don’t have to be studying education translation services to have heard someone speaking with a Southern California accent, otherwise known as “Valley Girl.” It was first discovered in the San Fernando Valley in northwestern Los Angeles, hence, “Valley” girl. However, the speech patterns that started in Southern California, are just as prominent in Northern California as well. So what is happening to the speech of young girls in California, or, ‘Like, what’s up with that?’ Let a linguistic services company explain.
What does a linguistic services company see?
Stanford linguist Penny Eckert has labeled this phenomenon the ‘Northern California Vowel Shift’ because of its regular occurrence in the speech of young women mainly in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. As with the Great Vowel Shift (which occurred at the end of the Middle English period and into the Early English period), this new vowel shift from the West coast has been noticed across the country by language services firms everywhere. When one phoneme, or abstraction of a phonetic sound, shifts, then the phoneme that is displaced must find a new home, thus causing a movement with all vowels. The peculiar thing about the Northern California Vowel Shift is that it’s not necessarily following a specific pattern or reaction. Additionally, new diphthongs are being produced, creating new vocalic structures.
Take for example the word “stand.” Because the /æ/ sound (the vowel produced in “stand”) precedes a nasal, the vowel changes and the word “stand” is now pronounced “stee-and” with a diphthong. This is just one of the many patterns that Eckert and other language service companies, linguists, and phoneticians are beginning to notice in this vowel shift.
A linguistic services company’s perspective
However, it is not confined to just Northern and Southern California. Any linguistic services company or linguist is still unsure how or why, but it is evident that certain aspects of the dialect have spread nationally to teenage girls and young women (usually in college in their early twenties). A study done by professors from Long Island University in 2011 determined that Vocal Fry was evident just as much in the East Coast than it was in California. Vocal Fry can essentially be characterized by the lowering of vowels, as demonstrated by the Northern California Vowel Shift. Pop artists such as Brittney Spears and Ke$ha employ this speech articulation in order to reach low notes.
This new dialect with the movement and creation of vowels has been stigmatized as negative. Women who produce this dialectal accent are perceived of as ditzy, or simply dumb. However, linguists and language services firms would argue that these women are in fact, “like, way ahead of the linguistic currrrrrrve.” From a linguistic services company’s perspective, this new shift is another amazing phonological phenomenon that is over-taking young women and spreading to other demographics all across the country. According to language service companies, young women are operating on the cusp of language development.
So, like, what do you think will like, happen, to like, American English Dialects?
1. Quenqua, Douglas. “They’re, Like, Way Ahead Of the Linguistic Currrrve.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
2. Pereltsvaig, Asya. “Northern Californian English: Hella Different? Cultural Geography GeoCurrents.” GeoCurrents Northern Californian English Hella Different Comments. N.p., 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
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