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????