Speech Prosody 2014

The form and use of uptalk in Southern Californian English

Amanda Ritchart and Amalia Arvanit
This study examines the phonetics, phonology and pragmatic function of uptalk, utterance-final rising pitch movements, as used in Southern Californian English. Twelve female and eleven male speakers were recorded in a variety of tasks. Instances of uptalk were coded for discourse function (statement, question, confirmation request, floor holding) based on context. The excursion of the pitch rise and the distance of the rise start from the onset of the utterance’s last stressed vowel were also measured. Confirmation requests and floor holding showed variable realization. Questions, on the other hand, showed a rise that typically started within the stressed vowel and had a large pitch excursion, while uptalk used with statements exhibited both a smaller pitch excursion and a later rise that often started after vowel offset. This pattern suggests that statements have a L* L-H% melody while questions have L* H-H%. Gender differences were also found: female speakers used uptalk more often than males, and showed greater pitch excursion and later alignment, all else being equal. Other social parameters, however, such as social class and linguistic background did not affect the use of uptalk.