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Uptalk and the Frequency Code: How gender affects iconic associations of pitch
conference contributionposted on 2023-11-15, 21:31 authored by Sasha CalhounSasha Calhoun, Paul Warren, Joy Mills, Jemima Agnew
Meanings of linguistic features are generally taken to be socially constructed. According to the Frequency Code, however, uptalk, involving high, rising pitch, has iconic associations with small body size and female gender, which should influence its affective meanings, e.g., being associated with submissiveness or deference. While uptalk is reported to have some associations consistent with this, the Frequency Code approach assumes cultureand individual-specific ideological links, e.g., between submissiveness and femininity. We used Implicit Association Tests to measure associations between uptalk and each of body size and binary gender. Uptalk was robustly implicitly associated with gender and more weakly with body size. However, the strength and availability of these associations depended on the listeners’ gender, gender views and the gender of the voice. We propose physical associations with pitch provide an ‘extra-linguistic’ basis for meaning, but the salience and availability of these associations differs depending on individuals’ beliefs and experience.