I used to speak in a regular voice. I was able to assert, demand, question. Then I started teaching. At a university? And my students had this rising intonation thing? It was particularly noticeable on telephone messages. “Hello? Professor Gorman? This is Albert? From feature writing?”Turns out there's some deep spooky linguistic weirdness at work. There are quotes and links for lots of thoughtful people digging into this thing. One thing is for sure—uptalkers are not, like, just asking questions.
I had no idea that a change in the “intonation contour” of a sentence, as linguists put it, could be as contagious as the common cold.
As I understand it, uptalk is often (intended and understood) as an invitation for the interlocutor at least to signal attention and perhaps also to assent.Ah.
The key thing is that “uptalk” is not a signaling a question, in the literal sense of a request for information about the truth of the proposition being presented; nor does it (usually) mean that someone with low self-confidence is making a plea for reassurance. Rather, the studies suggest that it's usually someone who feels in control of the interaction and is inviting a response, as evidence that the interlocutor is going along.