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The Advent of Uptalk in British English

The phenomenon known as “uptalk,” by which is meant the use of interrogative intonation in declarative clauses, has become thoroughly incorporated into the speech of (mostly younger) American females and some males but has not typically been noted for British English. However, on the evidence provided by the speech of a young female doctor being interviewed this morning about her research on the BBC (Dr. Michelle Beaumont, King’s College London) makes it abundantly clear that RP (the so-called “Received Pronunciation,” which is the British standard) is no longer immune to the penetration of uptalk. As in American English, this new intonation is used by females who wish to make a declarative statement while simultaneously conceding to their interlocutors that (1) the content of their assertion is subject to doubt or disproof; and (2) the interlocutor is invited to only tentatively or provisionally entertain its veracity.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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