Uptalking in Steinbeck

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Thu Jul 18 04:13:12 UTC 2002

This article which I believed was mentioned on this list in September (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,555379,00.html ) makes what I
consider a credible effort (for a non-specialist journalist) to find the
beginning of the rise of uptalking, or "high-rise terminals." The earliest
citation in the article is 1965: "What's called 'high-rising intonation in
statements', an increasingly common feature of Australian English, was first
noticed as an aberration in an interview situation in 1965."

Now, I'm sure there's better work out there on the subject and history of
uptalk, but I think it's worth pointing out that in "The Winter of Our
Discontent," John Steinbeck describes what is unmistakably uptalk in the
first chapter, page seven of my Penguin version. The book was first
published in 1961.

"Joey looked like a horse and he smiled like a horse, raising a long upper
lip to show big square teeth. Joseph Patrick Morphy, Joey Morphy,
Joey-boy--"the Morph"--a real popular guy for one only a few years at New
Baytown. A joker who got off his gags veily-eyed like a poker player, but he
whinnied at other people's jokes, whether or not he had heard them. A wise
guy, the Morph, had the inside dope on everything--and everybody from Mafia
to Mountbatten--but he gave it out with a rising inflection, almost like a
question. That took the smart-aleck tone out of it, made his listener a
party to it so that he could repeat it as his own."

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at worldnewyork.org

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