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Valleyspeak or Valspeak is an American sociolect, originally of the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. It is associated with young, upper-class white women (called Valley girls), although elements of it have spread to other demographics, including men ("Val dudes").[1] This sociolect became an international fad for a certain period in the 1980s and 1990s, with a peak period from around 1981 to 1985. Many phrases and elements of Valleyspeak, along with surfer slang and skateboarding slang, have become stable elements of the California English dialect lexicon, and in some cases wider American English (such as the widespread use of "like" as a discourse marker).


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 titled "Valley Girl", on which Moon Zappa, Frank's then fourteen-year-old daughter, delivered a monologue in "Valleyspeak" behind the music. This song popularized phrases such as "grody to the max" and "gag me with a spoon".

An early appearance of Valleyspeak and the Valley Girl stereotype was through the character of Jennifer DiNuccio, played by Tracy Nelson in the 1982–1983 sitcom Square Pegs. According to an interview with Nelson included on the 2008 DVD release of the series, she developed the character's Valleyspeak and personality prior to the Zappa recording becoming popular.[2]

Among the recognizable characters with Valley Girl accents are Cher Horowitz of Clueless and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.[citation needed]


  • High rising terminal (also called "up speak" or "uptalk") is a defining feature of Valleyspeak. Statements have a rising intonation, causing declarative language to appear interrogative to listeners unfamiliar with the dialect. Research on uptalk has found a number of pragmatic uses, including confirming that the interlocutor follows what is being said and indicating that the speaker has more to say and so their conversation partner should not interrupt them (also called "floor holding").[3] The high rising terminal feature has been adopted by speakers beyond the traditional users of Valleyspeak, including men[1][4] and New Zealanders[5].
  • "Like" as a discourse marker. "Like" is used as a filler word, similar to "um" or "er," as in, "I'm, like, about to call my friend." It does not add content to the sentence, instead allowing time for the speaker to formulate what they will say next. The word is always unstressed when used in this way.
  • "To be like" as a colloquial quotative. "Like" (always unstressed) is used to indicate that what follows is not necessarily an exact quotation of what was said, but captures the meaning and intention of the quoted speech. As an example, in "And I was like, 'don't ever speak to my boyfriend again,'" the speaker is indicating that they may or may not have literally said those words, but they conveyed that idea.[citation needed]
  • "As if" - lit. used to express any disbelief.
  • "Seriously" used in sentences like, "Seriously dude!" The word "seriously" is used a frequent interjection of approval in a conversation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hogenboom, Melissa (2013-12-06). "More men speaking in girls' 'dialect', study shows". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  2. ^ "Weemawee Yearbook Memories: Tracy Nelson and Claudette Wells", a featurette on the DVD release Square Pegs: The Like, Totally Complete Series ... Totally (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2008).
  3. ^ Hoffman, Jan (2013-12-23). "Overturning the Myth of Valley Girl Speak". Well. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  4. ^ "Is Valley Girl Speak, Like, on the Rise?". 2013-12-07. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  5. ^ "Valley Girl Talk". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2017-07-19.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "American Slang: Valspeak". Language Dossier. Retrieved 2019-02-01.