Vocal fry and dismissing young women’s voices

I was completely oblivious to the vocal fry/“creaky voice” phenomenon until today. A friend posted about it, and I did a quick search, and found several interesting articles on the subject.

Creaky Voice: Yet Another Example of Young Women's Linguistic Ingenuity
“If you want to see where the language is going, you find a young, urban woman.”
Creaky Voice: A New Feminine Voice Quality for Young Urban-Oriented Upwardly Mobile American Women?
“Previously, creaky voice was interpreted as a voice quality of masculinity or authority. Moreover, a [...] survey indicates that college-age Americans [...] perceive female creaky voice as hesitant, nonaggressive, and informal but also educated, urban-oriented, and upwardly mobile.”
Vocal fry: ‘creeping in’ or ‘still here’?
“these ‘low creaky vibrations’ have been common since forever.” (Also suggests that Mae West used this register.)
This American Life, episode 545, act 2
“Listeners have always complained about young women reporting on our show. They used to complain about reporters using the word like and about upspeak[...]. But we don't get many emails like that anymore. People who don't like listening to young women on the radio have moved on to vocal fry.”
Stanford linguist Penny Eckert did a preliminary study, and found that people under 40 found vocal fry authoritative, while people over 40 didn't. Ira Glass says “So if people are having a problem with these reporters on the radio, what it means is they're old.” Eckert replies: “[the media] want to talk about the crazy ways that young women are speaking [...], even though young men are doing it too. So it's a policing of young people, but I think most particularly young women.”
Naomi Wolf misses the point about ‘vocal fry’. It's just an excuse not to listen to women
“Vocal fry is not a problem. It is merely another excuse to dismiss, ignore and marginalise women's voices, both literally and figuratively. And it's just the latest in a long history of finding excuses not to listen to what women, especially young women, say.”

One Response to “Vocal fry and dismissing young women’s voices”

  1. Vardibidian

    Language Log has been on this for donkey’s years… it’s worth putting into the context of the odd mini-storm about women in tech undermining themselves by using the word just too much (see http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=19910 “Un justified”).

    One of these days, someone may come up with an annoying vocal habit that young women have started doing recently that in fact is recent and peculiar to women. I wouldn’t hold my breath.



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