UPTALK AS AN INSTRUMENT OF POWER. Chris Stokel-Walker cites the theory that uptalk is “used by uncertain speakers hoping to win their audience over”. I had always thought of it in this way. However, Professor Liberman “suggests that uptalk is a way to assert dominance” He points to a 2005 study that showed that “speakers in dominant positions (the chair of a meeting, or an academic supervisor) use uptalk between three and seven times as often as the people they’re talking to.”

I have changed my mind about uptalk and power. The continual use of questions to lead the listener to agree is consistent with an attempt to persuade rather than to show deference. Valley Girls may seem to outsiders to be young and powerless, but when they talk to each other, my surmise is that in groups of girls of that age there is a hierarchy of power and that uptalk is used as a tool to acquire or maintain a social position.

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