A great article in the New York Times reveals that young women are linguistic trendsetters.

The use of “like” and uptalk (“pronouncing statements as if they are questions?”) is often seen as a sign of stupidity or immaturity, with women being compared to “Valley Girls”, like Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless. Linguists have refuted this however, saying that girls and young women popularise vocal trends and slang, and use embellishments in more sophisticated ways than previously thought.

“If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid,” said Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. “The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”

The idea that young women serve as incubators of vocal trends for the culture at large has longstanding roots in linguistics. As Paris is to fashion, the thinking goes, so are young women to linguistic innovation.

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” said Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, “and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average.” (Source: New York Times)

Take a look at the rest of the article – it’s fascinating. And women, never again feel ashamed of using these social cues!