Teenage speak and beyond

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu May 31 23:26:24 UTC 2007

Perhaps if you Google the "Northern Cities (Vowel) Shift" and consult
the and standard references in American sociolinguistics and
dialectology over the last forty years or so you will find the
answers. It is far from adolescent girl speech.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Richard Vallis <rvallis at OPTONLINE.NET>
>Subject:      Teenage speak and beyond
>There is a kind of learned patois regularly spoken mainly by
>teenage girls in the past few  decades ( who in many cases continue
>to speak it well into their 20's and 30's)  that was best
>exemplified  by Lorraine Newman's "valley girl" character on
>"Saturday Night Live" in the 70's.
>  In what appears to be an attempt at speech sophistication, the
>adolescent girl (and occasional guy) characteristically distorts the
>vowel sounds, especially  the  "e" as in the word best.  Best
>becomes "bast" or "bost" or "bus."  Better becomes "batter" as the
>mouth opens wide to accommodate this apparently classy way of
>enunciating.  Other vowel sounds are similarly affected by the
>sophisticatedly wide open mouth.  Bush becomes "bahsh" and on it
>goes, endlessly.  What's more daunting, is that the individual
>continues this distortion into post adolescence and beyond when a
>young person's apparent need for "fitting in" and peer pressure
>would seem to be diminished.
>Television personalities and actors have generally been purged of
>it, but it maddeningly rears itself, wide-mouthed, in commercials.
>What's surprising is that most listeners don't seem to notice the
>bend in pronunciation until it's pointed out to them.
>  I've done a Google search and, no matter what search parameter I
>supply, I don't find a reference to it.
>I wonder if you would be so kind as to point me to any studies or
>references to this pattern.  It has fascinated me for years but,
>alas, I have found no one to corroborate it.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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