Valley girl

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Map of neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley

A valley girl is a socioeconomic, linguistic, and youth subcultural stereotype and stock character originating during the 1980s: any materialistic upper-middle-class young woman, associated with unique vocal and California dialect features, from the Los Angeles commuter communities of the San Fernando Valley.[1] The term in later years was more broadly applied to any female in the United States who embodied ditziness, airheadedness, or greater interest in conspicuous consumption than in intellectual or personal accomplishment.[2]


Valleyspeak or Valspeak is a California English social dialect and accompanying vocal features, best associated with Valley girls, though elements of it have spread to other demographics, including men called "Val dudes".[3] This sociolect became an international fad for a certain period in the 1980s and 1990s, with a peak period from around 1981 to 1985. Valleyspeak is popularly characterized by both the steady use of uptalk and its vocabulary.[4]

Language ideology[edit]

Due to its place at the center of the entertainment industry, California is one of the main sources worldwide for new cultural and youth trends, including those of language.[citation needed] This lends itself to explicit language ideologies about dialects in the area as they receive more scrutiny than dialects in other nearby regions. Linguistic characteristics of valleyspeak are often thought to be "silly" and "superficial" and seen as a sign of low intelligence. Speakers are also often perceived as "materialistic" and "air-headed". The use of "like" or the quotative phrase "be like" are often ideologically linked to California and Valleyspeak despite the now-widespread use of the terms among youth, which results in their also receiving the "superficial" cast. In the national understanding, California speech is thought to be a product of the combination of Valley girl and surfer dude speech, and "is associated with good English, but never proper".[5]

A study on regional language ideologies done in California in 2007 found that, despite its prevalence and association with California in past decades, Californians themselves do not consider "Valley girls" to be an overly prevalent social or linguistic group within the state. State residents listed factors such as immigrant populations and north–south regional slang as more relevant than Valleyspeak within the state.[6]

Amanda Ritchart, a doctoral candidate studying linguistics at the University of California San Diego, analyzed 23-year-olds (college age students) from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities, specifically in the Southern California region.[7] After this study, Ritchart once stated, "Women used uptalk more frequently than men did. Their pitch rose higher overall, and the rise began much later in the phrase." Even though the gender difference is notable, the majority of both men and women speak in uptalk in Southern California. In fact, 100% of the participants used uptalk when they asked a confirming question, such as "Go all the way to the right in the middle where it says Canyon Hills?"[8]

According to the article "What's Up With Upspeak?",[9] when women use Valleyspeak, it is assumed that they have "inferior speech" patterns. For men, the high rise of intonation usually "plateaued" at certain points, especially in situations where they didn't want to be interrupted.[10]

Features and qualifiers[edit]

The sound of Valleyspeak has these main habits: nasal sound; fast-paced run-on sentences;[citation needed] breathiness; uptalk, or the sound of a question; and vocal fry.

  • 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").[11] Another use is as a confirmation statement of general agreement, such as "I know, right?" or simply "right?". The difference between the intonation of a question, confirmation statements, and floor holding is determined by the extent of the rise and its location within the phrase.[12] The high rising terminal feature has spread and been adopted outside the geographical area and groups originally associated with Valleyspeak including, in some cases, men.[13][3][14] (However, in some varieties of English, usage of high rising terminal emerged independently and/or has been documented as preceding Valleyspeak by decades, such as in Australian English and New Zealand English.)
  • "Like" as a discourse marker. "Like" is used as a filler word, similar to "um" or "er", as in, "I'm, like, totally about to blow chunks." When "like" is functioning as a discourse marker, the word itself does not semantically change the phrase or sentence. Instead, it provides time for the speaker to formulate what they will say next. The word is always unstressed when used in this way. It is important to note that "like" does not always function as a discourse marker in Valspeak. Consider the following two sentences: "It was like 8 feet deep" and "I think that, like, it is entertaining." Even though both sentences contain the word "like," they employ it differently. In the former, "like" serves as an adverb that is synonymous with "approximately", whereas the latter "like" is a discourse marker, adding no additional meaning to the sentence.[15] Furthermore, "like" is frequently used to introduce quoted speech. For example, a person can recount a conversation by stating, "So, um, I'm like 'Where did he go?' and she was um, like, 'I don't know, I haven't seen him.'"[16]
  • "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. "Be like" can introduce both a monologue or direct speech, allowing a speaker to express an attitude, reaction, or thought, or to use the phrase to signal quotation.[17]
  • Particular slang terms, including "to be all" or "to be all like" used in the same manner as "to be like", "whatever" or "as if" used to express any disbelief, "totally" meaning "quite" or "very", "seriously" as a frequent interjection of approval or an inquiry of veracity, "bitchin'" meaning "excellent", and "grody" meaning "dirty".[citation needed]
  • Vocal fry is characterized by "low, creaky vibrations" or a "guttural vibration". Researchers have studied two qualities of this speech pattern, such as the jitter (variation in pitch) and shimmer (variation in volume). When women tend to speak with these mannerisms, they are perceived as less competent, less hirable, less trustworthy, or less educated.[18] Prominent examples are Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In Los Angeles, "vals" (inhabitants of "the Valley") were derided for their perceived other-ness in the late 1970s. Valspeak and the term "Valley Girl" were given a wider circulation with the release of a hit 1982 single by Frank Zappa titled "Valley Girl", on which his fourteen-year-old daughter Moon Zappa delivered a monologue in "Valleyspeak" behind the music. This song popularized phrases such as "grody to the max" and "gag me with a spoon". It also popularized the use of the term "like" as a discourse marker, though it did not originate in Valleyspeak.[5] Zappa intended to lampoon the image, but after the song's release there was a significant increase in the "Valspeak" slang usage, whether ironically spoken or not.[20] Moon Zappa herself would go on to portray a Valley Girl in the "Speedway Fever" episode of CHiPs.
  • 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.[21]
  • The 1983 film Valley Girl starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman[22] centered on a group of "Valley Girl" characters and featured several characterizations associated with their lifestyle (such as going shopping at the mall or "Galleria", suntanning at the beach, and going to parties).
  • In the 1990 animated TV series Tiny Toon Adventures there is a character named Shirley the Loon who is an anthropomorphic waterfowl. She speaks with a thick valley girl accent and is quite smart but also obsessed with New Age paraphernalia and also seems to have some magic abilities. She appears not to notice the other meaning of her surname as she often recites "oh, what a loon i am" while meditating.[23][24]
  • The protagonist of the 1995 film Clueless, played by Alicia Silverstone, has been described as a caricature of 1990s Valley Girls, though she is actually from nearby Beverly Hills and even before making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, was somewhat altruistic.[25][26][27][28]
  • In the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch "The Californians", the characters speak with wildly exaggerated Valley accents.
  • American Girl doll Courtney Moore, a historical character from 1986, has an older stepsister named Tina D'Amico, who is often referred to as a valley girl by doll collectors, despite Tina herself not yet becoming an official doll. Tina and Courtney live in Orange Valley, a fictional version of Los Angeles.
  • In her 2015 memoir entitled Wildflower, actress Drew Barrymore says she talks "like a Valley girl" because she lived in Sherman Oaks from the age of 7 to 14.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Villarreal, Dan (1 December 2016). "Do I Sound Like a Valley Girl To You? Perceptual Dialectology and Language Attitudes in California". Publication of the American Dialect Society. 101 (1): 57. doi:10.1215/00031283-3772901. ISSN 0002-8207.
  2. ^ Demarest, Michael; Stanley, Alessandra (September 27, 1982). "Living: How Toe-dully Max Is Their Valley:. Time magazine.
  3. ^ a b Hogenboom, Melissa (2013-12-06). "More men speaking in girls' 'dialect', study shows". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  4. ^ "Valspeak or Valley Speak". Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  5. ^ a b Nycum, Reilly (May 2018). "In Defense of Valley Girl English". The Compass. 1: 23–29.
  6. ^ Bucholtz, M.; Bermudez, N.; Fung, V.; Edwards, L.; Vargas, R. (2007). "Hella Nor Cal or Totally So Cal?: The Perceptual Dialectology of California" (PDF). Journal of English Linguistics. 35 (4): 325–352. doi:10.1177/0075424207307780. S2CID 64542514.
  7. ^ December 2013, Tia Ghose 05 (5 December 2013). "Valley Girl Talk Is, Like, Everywhere in Southern California". Retrieved 2020-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "The word "like" used more often than not; valleyspeak". The Quad. 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  9. ^ "What's Up With Upspeak?". Berkeley Social Science. 2015-09-21. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  10. ^ "Is Valley Girl Speak, Like, on the Rise?". National Geographic News. 2013-12-07. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  11. ^ Hoffman, Jan (2013-12-23). "Overturning the Myth of Valley Girl Speak". Well. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  12. ^ Ritchart, A. and Arvaniti, A., 2013. Do we all speak like valley girls? Uptalk in Southern Californian English. ASA Lay Language Papers. from
  13. ^ "Valley Girl Talk". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  14. ^ "Is Valley Girl Speak, Like, on the Rise?". 2013-12-07. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  15. ^ "What Part of Speech is "LIKE"?". Part of Speech. 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  16. ^ Ploschnitzki, Patrick. "'Valley girl' - A dialect, its stereotypes and the reality" – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Blyth, C., Recktenwald, S., & Wang, J. (1990). I'm like, "Say What?!": A New Quotative in American Oral Narrative. American Speech, 65(3), 215-227. doi:10.2307/455910
  18. ^ Anderson, Rindy C.; Klofstad, Casey A.; Mayew, William J.; Venkatachalam, Mohan (28 May 2014). "Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market". PLOS ONE. 9 (5): e97506. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...997506A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097506. PMC 4037169. PMID 24870387.
  19. ^ Wolf, Naomi (24 July 2015). "Young women, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  20. ^ Watson, Ben (1994). Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play. Quartet Books. p. 396. ISBN 978-0-7033-7066-2.
  21. ^ "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).
  22. ^ "Deborah Foreman". IMDb.
  23. ^ Meisler, Andy (1990-07-08). "TELEVISION; Steven Spielberg Promises: 'Th-Th-That's Not All, Folks'". The New York Times. pp. Section 2, Page 27. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  24. ^ Williams-Wood, J. (2012-11-11). "Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation". ISSN 0887-6851. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  25. ^ "Amy Irving". The Index-Journal. April 22, 1998. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  26. ^ Alan Schwartz, Richard (2006). The 1990s. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438108803. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  27. ^ Rothman, Lily (22 October 2012). "No Rebuttals: The Top 10 Movie Debate Scenes". Time. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  28. ^ Hoffman, Jan (23 December 2013). "Overturning the Myth of Valley Girl Speak". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  29. ^ Barrymore, Drew (2015). Wildflower. New York: Dutton. pp. 2, 7. ISBN 9781101983799. OCLC 904421431. As if I had been lobotomized, we packed our things and moved into our new home, indeed in Sherman Oaks, in 1983. It's why I still talk like a valley girl. That cadence snuck into my life at that spongelike age of eight and never left.

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