Valspeak

like by jack hanley

whatever

Valspeak is a common name for an American sociolect (social dialect), originally of the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, in particular Valley girls. This stereotype, which originated in the 1970s, became an international fad for a certain period.

Many phrases and elements of Valleyspeak, along with surfer slang and skateboarding slang, are stable elements of the California English dialect lexicon, and in some cases wider American English (such as the use of ‘like’ as a hedge, a mitigating device used to lessen the impact of an utterance).

Elements of Valleyspeak can now be found virtually everywhere English is spoken, particularly among young native English speakers. The language has gradually become symbolic and is increasingly becoming unrelated to its original meaning. Another common feature is the high rising terminal (statements have a rising intonation pattern in the final syllable or syllables of the utterance), causing normal declarative language to appear to the listener as interrogative. This is also known as ‘uptalking,’ and is similar to the Australian Questioning Intonation (or AQI).

The term ‘Valley Girl’ and the Valley manner of speech was given a wider circulation with the release of a hit 1982 single by Frank Zappa entitled ‘Valley Girl,’ on which Moon Unit Zappa, Frank’s fourteen-year-old daughter, delivered a monologue in ‘Valley speak’ behind the music. This song, Frank Zappa’s only Top 40 hit in the United States, popularized phrases such as ‘grody to the max.’ Some of the terms used by Moon were not actually Valley phrases, but were surfer terms instead (such as ‘tubular’ and ‘gnarly’). But due to the song’s popularity, some of the surfer phrases actually entered the speech of real Valley teens after this point. The Los Angeles surfing subculture, on the other hand, did not use Valley terms, and in fact often denigrated those who did.

One of the earliest appearances of Valleyspeak on television was during the first season of ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1976, in which Laraine Newman played a member of a group therapy session that included John Belushi as the Godfather and Elliott Gould as the facilitator. Another early appearance of Valleyspeak and the Valley Girl stereotype was through the character of Jennifer DiNuccio, played by Tracy Nelson in the 1982-83 sitcom, ‘Square Pegs.’ Valleyspeak is used heavily in the films ‘Valley Girl’ and ‘Clueless.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.