What is this accent or register?


It seems to me to include

  • extensive creaky voice
  • a broad range of pitch
  • rising question intonation

This question is not about the merits of that vocal style. I have extensively edited this question as it appears that this vocal style is controversial, so as to avoid provoking rants.

  • Do I not like it? Why do you think that? – Dan Sheppard May 25 '16 at 19:27
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    @DanSheppard I got that impression too ... probably from the connotations of the words "infuriating" and "shitload" ... the latter plainly describing not the practice of video learning but the characteristics of the intonation in the video. – MetaEd May 25 '16 at 19:40
  • But shitload is just an intensifier, isn't it? Someone can have a shitload of money without you disapproving of it, surely? And surely, other than in quite exceptional constructions, pronouns like "this" usually refer back to something that's already been mentioned? If I'd known the question was quite such a diplomatic minefield, I might have been more careful. But as no one's really explained to me what's going on, beyond it obviously being a source of internet drama, I'm not really sure what to do about it. – Dan Sheppard May 25 '16 at 19:58
  • I am going to edit this question to make it less controversially worded, a controversy I was unaware of (and am still somewhat in the dark about). But it seems that, until I do, this question isn't going to get any quality answers. – Dan Sheppard May 25 '16 at 20:10
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    I basically thought that you disliked it for the reasons MetaEd mentions. I like the edits that have been made to the question, although it still seems a bit vague to me (I think it would be nice to have more than one example to be able to isolate the features that seem characteristic to you). – herisson May 26 '16 at 4:33

There isn't any unusual accent in that speech. What you're referring to, though, is intonation, and one of the things you're specifically referring to is called vocal fry.

In vocal fry, the vocal folds are shortened and slack so they close together completely and pop back open, with a little jitter, as the air comes through. That popping, jittery effect gives it a characteristic sizzling or frying sound.

Vocal fry has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years, but it is not a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to women. Listen to Noam Chomsky sometime; he has it as well. One difference is that he has it a lot, and his register isn't all over the place, so it sounds more natural with him. But if you listen carefully, sometimes it's pretty bad. (Or he has vocal nodules. I don't know. Maybe both.)

From Language Log:

The following things about vocal (creak and) fry are clear: - Everybody does it. - Everybody has always done it. - There's a widespread belief that young American women are now doing it more (than young women did in earlier decades, or than older women do now, or that men of any age do it or did it). - No one has ever presented any non-anecdotal evidence that (3) is true.

(He relents a bit on that last point, however.)

Edited to add (post OP's edit): Again, I don't hear an accent. The speaker is trying - maybe a bit too hard - to speak about a chemical reaction in a not-too-monotonous tone, varying her pitch in a slightly exaggerated manner (at least that's my understanding.) The register is on the formal side - it's a teaching video. Rising question intonation - often called upspeak - is not very prominent on this video (it questionably occurs maybe twice.)

The article cited below goes into some detail about upspeak and vocal fry, as well as the negativity it has attracted.

From Upspeak To Vocal Fry: Are We 'Policing' Young Women's Voices?

| improve this answer | |
  • I don't hear any vocal fry at all. Vocal fry is only the 'buzz saw' at the end of sentences. I think you are labeling this as 'a young woman' and then associating that with the what many people associate with vocal fry. As @sumelic noted, it's just more highly intonated than usual. – Mitch May 24 '16 at 2:38
  • @Mitch - I disagree. Vocal fry does not only occur at the end of sentences. It can occur at any point, and I believe it is present in spades. – anongoodnurse May 24 '16 at 4:03
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    I know it's unfair to police women's voices, but to my ears, vocal fries and valley girl slang are the worst kind. – NVZ May 24 '16 at 5:17
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    This is a YouTube video talking about the phenomena with real life examples. I can definitely hear elements of vocal fry in the educational video. – Mari-Lou A May 24 '16 at 5:28
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    @DanSheppard - No anger here; I think it was an interesting question. I may have misread your attitude towards this speech from the statement, "distinctive shitload of creaky voice, highly variable pitch and rising questioning intonation...". Sorry if I was wrong (edited out value judgement.) As for a shitstorm, this isn't one; at least I don't see it. You should only accept answers that are helpful. I can't tell you if this helped you one way or the other. – anongoodnurse May 25 '16 at 20:20

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