Talk like an Australian.

19 Feb

High Rising Terminal. Heard of it? No? Well, if you haven’t heard of the term, don’t worry yourself unduly; it’s not all that well known. What is probably more than likely is that you have actually heard it. God, if you’re especially unfortunate you might be one of those individuals who is actually deliberately using it. Confused? Allow me to explain!

‘High Rising Terminal’ is the official name given to a feature of some English speaking accents. According to a quick internet search it is also known as ‘upspeak’ ‘uptalk’, ‘rising inflection’ or ‘high rising intonation’. Upspeak is a vaguely disturbing term actually, and reminds me of something out of Nineteen Eighty-Four! It’s also been called ‘Australian pronounciation syndrome’ or something similar. This particular speech trend is a natural feature of some Australian and American accents it would seem.

So what’s it all about? I’m obviously building up to something here. Well, this speech feature appears to have filtered its way down (up?) through society to the point were people who had a completely different speech pattern at one time, now insist on ending every other sentence as if it’s a question. There is a distinct high tone of eccentuated syllable at the end of the sentence, as you would stress if making an inquiry. What annoys me the very most, is that most times these individuals are not asking a question, and end up sounding indistinct and unsure. Now, maybe it’s an aspect of accent designed to keep the other person involved in the conversation, as a prompt; I’m not sure. That could be a positive thing, but it often it just smacks of insecurity and cloudy communication, where a definite statement is required. Maybe it’s a depressing sign of the times.

While some accents have a natural leaning to this, it seems to have been adopted by English speakers from nations whose accent does not have this hallmark. What’s it all about? Has years of watching Neighbours finally contaminated the British public? I’m not sure about the Australian influence to be honest. There seems to be a suggestion in the way certain people talk, that this trend is a deliberate attempt to sound sophisticated and intelligent. You can’t fake those things though. What it does for most of us, is take the emphasis away from what the person is saying and the result is a very irritating speech pattern, completely jarring with what is being said. Unless you belong to a social group that all talk like this, presumably. More people under about 25 appear to be talking this way, which is a worry. I work with at least two people who do it, and I often forget the point of what they’re saying. So, is our future one of inappropriate pronounciation and emphasis? After one generation had to make a concerted effort (yes, effort, God help us) to sound like this, will future offspring be raised to speak like this ‘naturally’?!

No one seems to be sure where HRT originated, but it sounds as if it’s here to stay. As young as I may still be, if I was really young, I might have adopted this trend without much question. As it is, I belong to the hopefully majority group who don’t talk this way, because I’d have to had made a deliberate, focused change in my speech to do so. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me? (Haha, see what I did there?…) Jesus, it’s annoying.

Basically, unless you’re from Bristol or East Anglia (apparantly) you have no excuse to be talking this way if you were raised in the UK. I can only comment on my home country; I can’t bear to think what frustration this trend is causing elsewhere.

Frankly, if the revered Family Guy has taken the piss out of it, and a Brit national treasure like Stephen Fry is complaining about it, then no one should really be trying to talk like this at all. High Rising Terminal- it doesn’t make you sound intelligent and cosmopolitan, it just makes you sound confusing and confused, and damn irritating to boot. Unless you’re from Australia or California, possibly.

Or should that be, unless you’re from Australia or California????

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5 Responses to “Talk like an Australian.”

  1. JFK February 20, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    Totally agree. I deal with some folk who use this affected tone and I’ve actually made my opinion known to their face… with fairly confused look following. I tend to think you hear this in the world of teacher-dom and marketing types and usually from women. Psychologically it’s a submissive practice, which attempts to gain favour by ‘seeming uncertain’ and looking for reassurance. That’s OK for about 2 minutes whilst your ego gets a nice massage, but then you think “Oh, just RACK OFF!”…. “She AIN’T Apples MAIYTE”… and “Oim not putting another burger on the Barbie”.

  2. JFK February 20, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Addendum!… It is a sad reflection on this ‘politically correct’ world that many feel that they can’t voice their true opinions for fear of being labelled as ‘opinionated’ – oh what a curse that is eh? You say one thing slightly negative about something and you’re pigeon-holed as a ‘n-hater’ (‘n’ being the variable subject prefix, whether it’s racial, cultural, political… whatever). As a consequence, we seem to be quite effectively policing and censoring our own language and so-called ‘freedom of expression’. Let’s hope Facebook, Twitter and the other digital forums don’t start giving us the ability to ‘tone-of-voice’ our text comments. Maybe they will come up with the double or triple accented character, that goes off up into the stratosphere at the end of a word, instructing us to sing our statements. Those smilies at the end of sentences don’t half rescue the odd comment that might otherwise have been taken as sarcasm. We should all encourage our friends and family to be as negative as possible, so that they don’t end their sentences on a high note. That’s the only fix I can think of right now.

  3. Artful Adorner February 21, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    I am 35 years old. My accent has transgressed from Cheshire (county of birth), to north Yorkshire, to Norfolk and is more so, overall, the product of a Cambridgeshire public school. I have also lived in Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Tyne & Wear / Northumbria – where I have resided for the past seven years. It has always been a natural affinity to speak the Queen’s English, and many are unable to discern a distinct accent, so to speak.

    However, the Geordie accent, overall, has this lilt to it. Whilst speaking on the telephone recently with a Mancunian friend, he felt compelled to highlight to me these lilts at the end of some, but not all, of my sentences. I was fairly taken aback as these were not conscious lilts. I immediately felt acutely self-conscious followed with a conscious effort to retain my usually mellow tones. I guess, what I’m trying to say is that if you are immersed within regional linguistics for any lengthy amount of time, then you cannot help but to unintentionally acquire some of the intonation.

    • serendipity3864 February 21, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      Hmmm, I’m not overly familiar with the Geordie accent (I know what it sounds like, obviously, but I don’t live in the North-East of England, which would make things very different). That accent does have a lilt, but I’m not sure if it’s the same thing that I’m talking about. Obviously certain accents do have this emphasis; the problem is more with speakers from other places (who do not have those accents) who still try to talk in a certain way. It’s just really odd.

  4. Artful Adorner February 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Steve Sharma? The dentist from the Polygrip advert? Talks exactly like this? Just an example of what the media is feeding us.

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