High rising terminal (HRT) or high rising inflection (HRI), also called uptalk, is an English language accent feature in which rising inflection- a steep upward increase in vocal pitch at the end of a sentence - is applied to most or all declarative statements, and not just to questions.
In the perceptions of native English speakers who do not use this accent feature, the people who do use it tend to sound uncertain, indecisive, or unintelligent, but studies have indicated that HRI actually has a more pragmatic underlying function: it allows the user to consistently "hold the floor" in a conversation by indicating that the speaker is not finished talking and will respond negatively to be interrupted. Rather than being socially insecure, the most frequent users of HRI in youth social cliques tend also to be the most socially dominant members of those groups. Statistically, more HRI users are female than male, and HRI is used only rarely by professional individuals who are out of college; it is highly preferred by older teens and undergraduate college students.
Users of HRI also tend to be associated with specific cultural and socio-economic groups whose youth use those accent features frequently. In the United States, HRI is most often associated with "Valley Girls," young women living in Southern California and some parts of the Pacific Northwest; this has been demonstrated and exaggerated in American popular media, such as the film Clueless. The feature also exists in Minnesota and North Dakota, especially in areas with a large population of Norwegian-descended families. In the United Kingdom, HRI is pejoratively associated with Australians, and the origin of its use in Australia has been variously attributed to the popularity of soap opera among teenagers, and to language contact with New Zealand.
Iron Noder 2013, 25/30