Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 13:15:57 -0400 From: "M. Lynne Murphy" <104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA> Subject: Re: statements spoken as if it were a question > I noticed the same rising intonation for statements from several students > during their seminar paper presentations last spring (both male and female), so > I checked with a colleague who teaches several sections of public address, and > she reports that it is quite common among both sexes. She argues that it occurs > most frequently with students who are hesitant or lack confidence in their > presentation (or perhaps a signal of deference), but I suspect that this is the > effect rather than the cause. i catch myself doing this while lecturing. now, this is a time when i know what i'm doing and am confident. but i think the reason why i do it is to try to keep peoples' attention. the times i've caught myself doing it, i've been lecturing here to (all female, in many cases) undergraduates, who have no qualms about having their own conversations while the lecture is going on. so i guess i'm trying to grate on their nerves? or get them involved in what i'm saying? the fact that it's associated with women's speech reminds me of a couple of things i've recently been lecturing on (so i'll subject you to them too): women use "y'know" a lot more than men. (that is to say, american women. "y'know" is here considered to be one of the most annoying things that americans do in speech.) this would go with the observation already made that the rising intonation is an attempt to involve the audience in the spkr's statements by looking for (or assuming) solidarity on the matter. perhaps this is related to women's question-asking habits. women ask a lot more questions than men (i think it was fishman's study that showed three times as many). but a lot of that question-asking isn't so much information-seeking as conversational-ball-rolling. furthermore, in mixed-sex conversations, women _have_ to ask questions, because otherwise their topics are not picked up. in fishman's study of couples, virtually all mens' topic introductions are successful, vs. 36% for women. _but_ when women introduce topics with questions, their success rate goes up to 72%. granted, this doesn't account for why people do whole monologues "upspeaking" the end of every sentence, clause, and sometimes smaller pieces. (e.g., "i was at the gap? at the mall?") but it does seem to me to be a way of making sure that the audience is coming along for the ride with you. then again, since the rising intonation may be associated with the end of a turn, and since women expect (friendly) interruption and positive minimal responses and the like, perhaps this rising is offering places for such responses. most of the things i mention here are pretty related. sorry for the stream-of-consciousness style. my self-editing skills are at an end- of-the-day low. lynne --------------------------------------------------------------------- M. Lynne Murphy 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Department of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340 University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-4199 Johannesburg 2050 SOUTH AFRICA