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About The Guest
Valerie Fridland is a Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, with a distinguished career in linguistics and phonetics. Her research interests include sociophonetics, language variation and change, and regional dialectology. She has contributed significantly to the field of linguistics through her publications in prestigious journals such as Journal of Phonetics, Language Variation and Change, and American Speech. Valerie is also the lead editor of Speech in the Western States Volumes I, II and III, which are widely regarded as authoritative works on the phonetics and dialectology of the American West.
In addition to her academic work, Valerie is an accomplished writer and communicator, writing a monthly column for Psychology Today. In her column, she applies her expertise in linguistics to topics related to psychology and mental health. Valerie’s innovative research, insightful writing, and effective communication of complex ideas have earned her numerous awards and honors, including the Early Career Award from the Linguistic Society of America and the Regents’ Award for Early Career Scholarship from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Valerie Fridland’s contributions to the field of linguistics are widely recognized, and she is respected for her expertise in phonetics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics. Her research has shed light on the complex ways in which language is used and how it varies across different regions and communities. Valerie’s commitment to effective communication and outreach has also made her a valuable resource for those seeking to better understand the role of language in society.
- 00:00 — Intro
- 02:43 — Valerie Fridland: The Linguistic Journey
- 05:45 — The Power of Language: How It Shapes Our Lives
- 17:27 — What Your Language Choices Reveal About Your Personality
- 22:02 — Women’s Voices and Their Influence on Men’s Speaking Patterns
- 33:46 — Language and Society Beyond North America
- 37:58 — The Globalized World: Implications for Language and Communication
- 42:11 — What Your Language Says About You: Insights from Val
- 45:56 — The Good in Bad English: Arguments and Perspectives
- 53:33 — Um, Uh, and Other Filler Words: Why We Use Them
- 1:05:14 — The Psychology of Swearing: Why We Do It
- 1:13:18 — Accent and Identity: How Our Environment Shapes Our Speech
- 1:19:23 — Val’s Advice for Success and Her Contact Handles
- 1:23:35 — Valerie Fridland’s Definition of Success
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What is the Success Story Podcast?
On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.
The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.
Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.
He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategies for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.
Host of the Success Story Podcast: https://www.successstorypodcast.com
Machine Generated Transcript
language, speech, talk, find, features, speakers, linguistics, people, women, pauses, tend, give, English, linguist, work, profanity, accent, social, context, men
Scott D Clary, Valerie Fridland
Scott D Clary 00:00
What does this actually teach people? What are some examples of how drastic altering language could be on an individual?
Valerie Fridland 00:07
It’s true people generally have never heard of this socio wingless.
Scott D Clary 00:12
Today my guest is Valerie Fridland, an esteemed professor of linguistics at the University of Nevada in Reno. Her captivating language blog has been found on psychology today. It’s called language in the wild where she delves into slang accents and grammar myths. What is the psychological reasoning why people swear
Valerie Fridland 00:28
I don’t study profanity myself. There seems to be sort of an emotional response that is helping us process when we use profanities when we swear, it seems to be something that helps us to feel better. It’s helping us express an emotion, an emotional reaction, just in the same way like it’s encoding an emotion in the same way that Oh, is encoding of surprise.
Scott D Clary 00:53
I’m just super curious. When you listen to me like what does that say about me and be ruthless? Like you can say whatever you want. One
Valerie Fridland 00:59
thing I didn’t notice is, you know, men tend to think Welcome to
Scott D Clary 01:03
success story. I’m your host Scott Clary. The success story podcast is part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. Now, the HubSpot Podcast Network has incredible podcasts like my first million hosted by Sam Parr and Shawn Perry, they interview some of the most incredible business leaders, Alex for Mozi Sophia Amoruso Hassan min Hodge, who share their journey to success and how they made their first million on a recent episode, they featured the acquired podcast hosts Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal to discuss how they scaled their multimillion dollar podcast. Don’t sleep on my first million if you want to get inspired. If you want to learn from the best, you gotta tune into my first million wherever you listen to your podcast. today. My guest is Valerie Friedland, an esteemed professor of linguistics at the University of Nevada in Reno. She holds a PhD in linguistics from Michigan State University. She specializes in socio linguistics, American Dialectology and regional vowel variation. Her captivating language blog has been found on Psychology Today, it’s called language in the wild where she delves into slang accents and grammar myths. As a distinguished professor of The Great Courses series, she shares her passion for language with students worldwide. She has taught at a multitude of prestigious institutions, such as Georgetown, George Mason, and others. She’s recognized for her innovative teaching methods and dedication to mentoring graduate students. She’s an active member of professional organizations, like the linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society. And she also contributes as an editor or reviewer for renowned journals in our field.
Valerie Fridland 02:44
Well, I had parents that are non native speakers and I grew up in a small Well, it wasn’t a small town at the time, either, but it still felt small town in the south. And it really was very exotic to have parents that didn’t speak with a southern accent. And I remember when I’d have all these friends come over, and my mom is French speaking. And so she would say, validly felt happy to call me and I every single friend, it was, like, you know, all sudden, they call to attention, and then they’d start imitating her, you know, with her accent. And it really brought home to me how integral to our personalities, voices, how much having something that’s different than somebody else from an accent perspective, or whatever thing makes you different, makes you stand out in some way. And of course, you know, to a 10 year old, it wasn’t a good thing. I hated that. I hated it. When people you know, I was like, Mom, stop saying my name, just don’t talk. But it really brought home to me the power of language in shaping social identity and the way that people perceive you. So I really found languages fascinating, just in general, because I think, you know, partially it was my parents didn’t just speak English. And that wasn’t the first language also from that experience of having people react to their accents and think things about us about us being kind of different or novel or not fitting in, because of the way they talked. So when I went to college at Georgetown University, I went into the languages and linguistics program, mainly just because I was curious about learning about more languages and more about how they worked. I didn’t really have any concept of linguistics at the time. In fact, I think if you told me it’s freshman year, I would have been a linguist, I probably would have cried. Because it sounds very boring to a 19 year old, but I took a linguistics class that covered Language and Gender, sort of all the different ways that our speech reveals who we are from a sort of social and gender perspective and how that impacts how you perceive it impacts your opportunities in the office, it impacts your relationships, and it kind of blew my mind because it articulated all these things I had felt and notice. So we all have these feelings about language when someone says something in a certain tone, or they sort of tell us dismiss us because of the way we talk. We all have had that experience in some way, shape or form. But we’ve never Ever had the language to discuss it, we always thought of it as a sort of a or US problem. And all of a sudden, I thought, oh my gosh, this isn’t just me, people that remark on my slight southern accent, it’s not because I’m saying something wrong, it’s because of these larger socio linguistic forces that make us notice the way people talk. It makes us sort of predetermined who they are from a social perspective. And it really impacts the opportunities that people have down the road, because of the way people think you are because of the way you talk. And it was that that was really the turning point for me, where I decided, oh, you know, screw Chinese, which was my major at the time, I want to go study linguistics, it was also that I was really bad at Chinese that probably had something to do with it, too.
Scott D Clary 05:44
I’m, you know, this is so fascinating, because let, I think anybody listening, understands how important languages and everybody who’s listening has had these moments in their life when they’ve been judged, or they’ve even judged someone else. But it doesn’t seem like, quite literally, before I met you, I’ve never heard of somebody studying this as a profession. I mean, the only application that I can see this in day to day would be maybe actors and actresses, and people that use this as part of their profession. But this is So language is so powerful. And it seems like the lack of understanding of language and how it impacts is something that could change people’s careers, change people’s lives, change their ability to negotiate the next job or present a certain way. And there’s all these other skills that are, are about are sort of adjacent to communication that people focus on, but they never focus on language. I’ve never heard somebody say, like, don’t say this word or say this word as part of don’t, you know, they say don’t say, or what not, and try and cut out the filler words when you’re doing a presentation and maybe to be a bit more confident. But I’ve never seen somebody and actually, apparently, according to your research, that’s not even the best way to present. But the point is, I’ve never seen somebody focus on this before. So what what does this impact? What kind of impact does this study have? What does this actually teach people? What kind of influence could this have on somebody’s life? Like? What are some examples of how drastic altering language could be on an individual?
Valerie Fridland 07:19
Well, you know, it’s interesting that you say that because it’s true, people generally have never heard of a socio linguist or even a linguist, that’s a theoretical language like I am. So we talk about linguists that study a lot of languages. But the type of linguist that I am is someone who studies the underlying structure of language, how we produce sound, why certain things happen a certain way, how language has changed over time? What is the what are the social and linguistic forces that create the language we speak? Why did Old English sound so different than modern English? All those kinds of things? And we also try to trace back the evolution of where all languages come from, did they were they from one language, one proto language? Or was it sort of multi multiple origin stories for language? So those are all as big questions that we don’t think about as speakers of a language we think about what’s a noun? What’s the verb, and you know, where’s my dangling modifier? And those are really interesting, because those are actually social preferences that we have learned when we study English language arts, what we’re studying is one person’s version of what they like about language and what they have claimed language should be those are not the actual cognitive rules that create language and drive it forward. So it’s really kind of striking to me that we don’t know this side of language because it’s so pivotal in everything we do. Do you have a voice assistant, like a virtual assistant that you talk to Alexa or Siri? linguist, linguist linguist, right? If it wasn’t for people like me, you wouldn’t be able to talk to them. So someone has to figure out how to program those computers to understand human speech, what is the structure of a Senate so that we make sure that when Siri spit something out, she follows that structure, right? It’s an analysis and she’s using large data pool. So she’s doing analysis, that is a syntactic analysis of those speech features. So this predictive language model that is driving like chat GPT today, what it does is it looks at huge quantities of language data. And a lot of them have been pruned and approved by linguists like this is something that types of language data we want. A lot of the language data comes from linguists, in fact, I have a friend that runs a large corpus that is a linguist and a lot of his weight lately, a lot of his work is trying to field requests from these large language data runners to get his access to his corpora to help them build language models for these big chat GPT type things. So that chat GPT has a predictive model, meaning that based on its analysis, it’s sort of linguistic analysis of all these sets of data. It predicts what comes next. So if you have a sentence, it’s looking at massive quantities of data and saying, What is the study Historical probability that this type of word comes next. And this is exactly what you do as a human language model, right? You are predicting when you hear someone talk you are predicting, oh, they said the nouns follow the, that’s probably going to be a noun. And that’s how I understand if you use a word that’s not typically a noun, and put it after a VA, all sudden, it becomes a noun because my brain understands that though it makes things a noun that that that slot in syntactic structure makes it now so another great example is adulting. Right? That we’ve made into a verb, right? People, of course, hate that. But what they don’t know is parent and parenting is actually the same relationship parent, the noun came centuries before we started talking about parenting. So you could be a parent in the 14th century, but you didn’t do parenting and really, the first reference to parenting we find is in the 16th century, and then it was hardly ever used until the 20th century, but parent has been used for a long time. Well, adult adulting has that exact same distribution, or adult came first and it meant to be a grown up, right, a grown up person. But adulting carries with it not just the idea of on being on grown up, it carries all the things associated socio culturally with being an adult, and it’s by adding that ing that it signals to me, Okay, I’ve shifted that noun to a verb. So these are actually linguistic ways of looking at language that are super helpful in both data for language learning models in making sure Siri recognizes a southern accent versus a non southern accent by giving it the understanding of the vowels, for example, that a southern uses versus a non southerner. It’s also really important in educational contexts, because a lot of times we have non native or non standard speakers, both of those go to schools, along with native and standard speakers, and we can have some problems in terms of how educational attainment is met for different pools of language learners, or different pools of dialect speakers. And it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with those dialects. But we can use the models of standard English and the models of dialects that are non standard to try to compare them to help children achieve learning attainment by giving them really solid understandings of where their dialect differs from the one that is the socially preferred dialect. Now, notice I said social woofer? Because there’s nothing wrong with a standard standard dialect. It’s simply a different set of rules. But how do you learn rules, you learn it by having them articulated in English language arts, we don’t articulate. Here’s the rule where English uses a noun after the here, we don’t articulate those kinds of rules. We give people ideas like nouns or person places or things which actually doesn’t explain most nouns, right, especially abstract ones. That’s not really linguistics, that’s actually just sort of ideas about language that get floated around. So there are lots of ways that linguists are relevant to our daily lives. In professional circles. Linguists do a lot of things like studies on that, as well as communication researchers studies on how different types of language use is perceived in different contexts. So one place, for example that I give talks on a lot is accent discrimination, and how what kind of work research linguists do can show us where we’re making some errors in the way that we approach accents in workplaces. And sometimes it’s really surprising. So for example, if you see if we do experiments, where we see an Asian face a South Asian face, and we play a standard English native speaker, voice, and then we compare that to a different control group that saw a white face with this the same exact voice, what we find is ratings of intelligibility. And ratings of non native Ignis go significantly up when you show them a picture of a non white person, which means you’re not actually listening to the actual signal because it’s exactly the same voice but just your stereotypes about what that person should sound like influences strongly what you think they sound like and can affect intelligibility. But what we find is people that are that’s a massive bias like hiring and one right but and then what’s the solution? That’s the other thing so what we find in also doing the same studies is if we expose speakers to more talkers from diverse backgrounds, they get better at not processing it in a negative way. So it can decrease accent bias. So there are a lot of different places where linguists are important and people just don’t realize they are
Scott D Clary 14:36
no I have no doubt they’re very important. I think that more people should be aware more people should be aware of, of their of their biases that they assume when they when they when they hear someone than when they receive a message but it’s like without the education and the awareness. Like you said like just like a random studies going to show this is a very real thing in the workplace and professional setting, you’re you’re trying to get a job you’re trying to raise money this is going to be this is going to be difficult if the person who’s receiving it is not aware of these biases. But the other question would be so outside of the the person who’s receiving the message, being aware of these biases and being exposed to, you know, different different individuals, so these biases start to be reduced. Is that sort of what I’m hearing that if the person speaks to a bunch of different types of individuals, eventually over time, these types of biases are reduced? Are there are there? What was the word you use? You said? Non? Like the preferred like not the preferred language, like the socially accepted language or the outside of that realm? Are there like language quirks or things that people say that they should not say it’s not a bias is just like a, like a bad habit? Or a bad practice? That hurts?
Valerie Fridland 15:54
You know, I think that’s a really loaded question, because I’m a linguist. So my aim is to study language descriptively. So what do people actually do? And then I can also look at the impact of of what they do, I particularly am interested in why they do it and where it came from. So what what need in our speech did it develop to to serve? And that’s sort of a prescriptive question in the sense of Is there anything we shouldn’t do, but again, that all comes down to social preferences. And I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be things that we watch in our speech, because we know how other other people perceive it. And we obviously want to make a good impression, for example, a job interview, you probably don’t want to walk in there saying a lot of arms and us a lot of likes, and use vocal fry, if you want to be employed by someone who might have a bias against those kinds of features. But in many ways, I would say that actually says a lot more about that company and the kind of climate it has, that you probably don’t want to be a part at, if they’re going to have those kinds of biases against speakers that happen to typically be young and female, because those are features that women young women tend to use at a higher rate. So, you know, I think there’s a difference between being aware of how you might be perceived based on using certain features, versus the prohibition to not use them. If you look at young speakers, young speakers, and generally use those features. So if you’re aging up those features, then any workplace would be, you know, sort of dumb to ignore them, because that is the latest in the clients and the employees are going to have.
Scott D Clary 17:26
So when we so when we look at language and like our language choices, forget bias, but just our personal language choices, what does that say about our identity, and our personality, and our social relationships,
Valerie Fridland 17:41
and enormous amount. And I think that’s the thing that people tend not to realize, you know, we see language in two ways, either good language or bad language, and if you speak good language, or a good person, if you speak bad language, or something wrong with you, but in reality, language is about social identity just as much as it’s about communication. So think about, you know, things like, Hi, how you doing that we say 5 million times a day. And they’re, they’re really about making connection, right? It’s, there’s nothing informational in that other than, Hey, I like you, I just want to check on you. And let’s have some connection here. Let’s build a relationship. So it’s relationship building. So a lot of times language is about talking in such a way that it invites connection, camaraderie, solidarity, and closeness, or it tells someone the way that you’re approaching them. So you know, you we were talking before we went on, about how you can change your speech over time, as you become more informal and more casual on that you’ve heard podcasters do that sort of over a couple of years? Well, the idea with more casual informal speech is it’s inviting when you when you go home, and you used an overly formal way of approaching your family, they’re going to look at you like what the hell is going on with you? Because you are you, you know it because it’s weird. It’s not, it doesn’t speak to your relationship. So when you are in a conversation, that was someone you just met, for example, and you sort of get that sense that you liked them that you’re making a connection? Do you stay stiff and formal in your speech? Or do you switch and start using maybe more contractions like gonna want to have to do you start saying, you know, I always gonna, instead of will do you say things like walking instead of walking? Those are very subtle cues that we give each other about the relationship. So if you’ve ever been in a conversation where someone does not shift, it’s very off putting, in fact, you probably walk away with a bad impression about them. And that’s the same thing as using things like discourse markers, well, oh, so like, you know, those are about connection. And actually, if you look at research on them, we find that when people take personality tests, more conscientious speakers tend to use more discourse markers. So it’s actually the linguistic version of kindness. When you think about discourse markers, so our dislike of them is really more about who has tended to use them historically more. So women tend to use more discourse markers, and it’s probably a lot with women speeches related to the position and the role that they’ve had. compared to men for centuries. And women’s voices have always been sort of vilified and told to be silent for, you know, since Aristotle, I think Aristotle had a saying that said, silence gives grace to a woman. So you know, that sort of tells you what he thought about women’s voices in the public sphere. And then, you know, we used to put them in scolds bridles in the Middle Ages, if they talked too much, and said things that we thought was blasphemy, which was mainly saying, you know, he sucks, we should get rid of this guy. Are you talking around the gossip circles in the water? Well, that you had these feelings about maybe those in governance, or people that were doing things you didn’t like? Well, that was dangerous, especially when women were saying it because women talk to a lot of other women, and they talk to their husbands and then it could spread like wildfire. It was kind of the internet, you know, the gossip circles were the internet of the Middle Ages. And so they actually would prosecute women for sins of the tongue, and put them in things called school to grab bridles, which was like a metal Hannibal Lecter contraption that held their tongue down so that they couldn’t speak. So here’s his history. And so we have always then been skeptical of women’s voices. So that leads us to believe a women talk more than men, which they don’t most research doesn’t show that to be true. Women have less to say it’s unimportant, it’s vacuous. It’s empty headed. So that then gets assigned to the features they tend to use at a higher rate. So things like like, our vocal fry, or using a lot of intensifiers, like very or so or prettier, really, those tend to be used at a higher rate and women speech. And the reason for that is that women actually lead in language change and have through time. So almost everything that you say today is a man was something that was started with a woman centuries ago. So really, it’s very interesting that women are very powerful generators of change.
Scott D Clary 22:01
Can I ask something? So if historically, women’s voices were suppressed? How was it so that even though they were suppressed the the the items in their speech, we’re actually setting like the precedent for how men speak in the future, in the next, you know, couple years or the next, the next? The next step? The, you know, the next 10 years, men will sort of adopt some of these speaking patterns. How did that? How did that happen?
Valerie Fridland 22:33
Well, I mean, of course, the big answer is women are just cooler. So of course, everybody goes after what they say. But the real answer, I’m we are cool. But the real answer is, what is what is the role of a woman historically, so they are often the homemakers, they raise the children, they are talking to their husbands when they get home. So we have this really interesting thing called intimate diversification, which is a big fancy word to say that, unlike other subcultures that tend to be segregated. So if you look in a lot of cities, you’ll find segregated ethnic enclaves so that you have these different sort of backgrounds and different language choices, perhaps, but they tend to be relegated to very distinct enclaves a lot of times because of historical power differences and socio economic differences. But whatever the reasons, there’s can’t separate separate. So there’s not as much borrowing across ethnic groups for features except, of course, now there’s a huge amount of borrowing of African American features from like Black Twitter and hip hop into white male speech. So that’s a totally different thing. But women raise the children. So children tend to adopt initially, at least until they go undergo vernacular reorganization in school, they adopt the features of guests who, their mom’s the mother, their mom. So you know, unless that changes drastically, and of course, it has changed somewhat, it’s still the case that that happened. So what we find is women are usually a generation ahead of men in picking up a speech feature. Now this is not all features, there are this is when you ask that question about what is our language say about us? It says a lot, a lot, so much, it’s hard to get to it all. We could talk for hours, but essentially, in the majority of speech features that have become standard over time, gone from being sort of less standard or just not notice to being standard. It is women that have led in those changes, they lead by usually at least one generation, because when they have children, those children inherit their speech. So boys and girls inherit the system of the mother first and foremost. And then they go to school and they start reorganizing their speech, we call it vernacular reorganization, to be more like their peers, and then they pick up new forms and fashions in speech. And that is what we dislike as adults, right? This difference in our speech and the Children’s speech, because it says something like this is youth culture, and this is adult culture. It makes us feel old, and we tend to labeled what they do as sort of novel and desirable but in fact, a lot of it does end up staying around and becoming the norm. As of the next generation, but it’s women more than men that in the teen years push language forward. So then we have this relief frog, we’re okay women were a generation ahead, they had children, the kids inherited their generation, they go to school or their speech, they go to school with the same system. But then girls forge ahead another generation, if a change is gonna is going to continue, the girls will push it forward, and then they give it to their children. So you have this kind of leapfrog pattern that men stay a generation behind until that change has moved to completion, meaning that it’s sort of what everybody says, and it’s so so widespread that there’s no more leapfrogging and that’s when we find that men catch up. And that’s when a new norm gets established over time. And so a great example historically would be because sometimes it’s easier if you have an example. When you say, you know, he does, instead of he doth, that was actually a change led by women. So we find in letters, of course, we don’t have recordings back from back then. But in the early modern period, which was about 1500 to 1700, we find letters written by women. And we also tend to find letters written by less educated people as well, that sort of also gives us a sense that these weren’t really standard features. In fact, it was a northern feature, a northern British feature, and it was finally adopted into London speech, which is when it became the standard, but we find does starting to appear instead of Daath. First in women’s and less educated speakers letters, and then about, you know, another generation skips forward and we start to see it in men’s speech. So that’s sort of what incrementally pushes change forward. Now, sometimes, of course, a feature gets very gendered. So little boys go to school, and then they hear girls say it and it takes on this very feminine tone, they get a very gendered association with that sort of like totally as an intensifier. And so they retreat and that’s where you find that changes tend not to progress or they become very gendered changes over time, where only women do them to a high degree and men don’t and we find the opposite is true as well. Sometimes features become gendered towards men, and women don’t do it as much. So you know what we
Scott D Clary 27:12
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Valerie Fridland 28:14
A lot of times it’s the different types of attract if sociocultural attractiveness that features carry so what makes a boy popular in school? You know, you were boy, right?
Scott D Clary 28:24
Sports, okay? Yeah, like laying sports, having friends, you know,
Valerie Fridland 28:28
being kind of tough and macho, right? Sort of Yeah. Yeah. That kind of thing? And is that is that the same kind of thing that happens for women on a GRE? I mean, they can play sports, but it’s sort of masculine bravado, very traditionally, no, no, it’s really not feminine identity and more totally 180. Yeah. So think about the types of features that boys tend to use, you know, like man and bro and dude are good example of that, that it sort of is a masculine solidarity, tough kind of guy, or just the appropriation of hip hop language. You know, that type of thing, saying things like eight, generally women as young girls get vilified for their speech much more than boys do. So if a girl comes home and says I ain’t doing that, that have parents that have an expectation about what that girl should sound like, she’s going to get ridiculed for it much more than a boy would because for a boy, we kind of have this expectation of rough, tough kind of behavior. And so features that embody that kind of roughness, that toughness, that masculine kind of quality. Those are the types that boys tend to pick up, which is why they tend to be very attracted to non standard features, because we have these stereotypes about what those speakers are like, even though they’re completely called cultural artifacts. Like
Scott D Clary 29:48
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Valerie Fridland 33:05
idea that young black men are dangerous and rebellious and nonconformist? Well, that’s, that’s our interpretation of a speech feature that has nothing to do with the reality of why young black man uses it. Right? Because a young black man might use a speech feature like thing or eight or eight or x. Because he’s he’s trying for solidarity with a group of other speakers who have faced the same sort of social cultural prejudice as he has. And he has to have that that’s part of what Bond’s them is having a shared language. And it’s actually acts is an older feature than ask and that’s what asked came from. Which is, so another thing
Scott D Clary 33:43
that’s wild. So you’re saying like people? No, I just wanted to undo. So that means that one group of individuals have completely adopted a language. I’m going to just very, very simplify this. So I understand one group of individuals who have adopted certain things in their language because of a certain social cultural norm. And then another group has misinterpreted that social cultural norm and then adopted things because of that misinterpretation. And then that’s been brought up. That’s really what’s happened, exactly
Valerie Fridland 34:12
what happens. That’s exactly what happens. And the reason that ethnic features tend to be so popular among young men so if you go to high school, I have a teenage son. And so I’m and he plays a lot of sports when I’m around a lot of boys a lot of times and sometimes it makes me laugh the way they talk because I want to say do realize what you’re doing, you know, but they would totally ignore me and my son would never invite me to another game, so not gonna do it. But what what they don’t understand is the reason those features are attracted attractive to them is because they’re completely misinterpreting why they’re used in the first place. They are used as sort of symbolic symbolic solidarity symbols for the groups that use them in the same way that we use certain features. Like like or vocal fry. To lay claim to other aspects of our identity, and those tend to be very predominantly kind of white and middle class features. And actually, if you look at almond I use, which we should talk about at one point because it will blow your mind. If you look at the distribution of use of those features, Matthews are much more than women do. And upper class speakers tend to use more filled pauses than lower class speakers. So they sort of It’s funny how these different features take on these associations that are very subtle, we don’t realize it, but they send messages to us about who those people are because of the very, very detailed distribution of those features and speech that we can’t articulate unless we’re a linguist, but influence us nonetheless. So when we see higher rates of certain things like contractions, or pelletisation, which is when you say things like Wacha, did, Jeff, that’s called palletization. Because it’s simply two sounds coming together because of how they’re articulated in the mouth that get palletized, meaning the tongue moves more towards the palate, we find higher rates of that speech feature, everybody does them, but we find higher rates among non standard English speakers. Probably because it is used as a language of, of communication, of intimacy of connection. So when we shift it in more informal features among our family members, it’s because we’re showing them that we’re connected and we identify with them. So in communities that tend to have that has been a very, very important facet of self protection against a larger dominant culture that tends to despise them. That’s a way to show it as in your language is connection. So but the problem is, a lot of times young men misinterpret those sort of signs of solidarity, as also representing what those people represent to them from cultural stereotype, which is sort of dangerous and edgy and cool. And then to get that in their own persona, they adopt those features. So that’s sort of how that cycle works. It’s pretty fascinating.
Scott D Clary 37:04
And are there any other examples of of because we spoke, now, we sort of spoken how language impacts society and a little bit of how society impacts language, but outside of North America, what are some other interesting examples of how society impacts language? This seems to be this like ying and yang seesaw type relationship between language and society that goes back and forth. And they almost impact each other constantly.
Valerie Fridland 37:29
Right? And so that’s a really good question. And there are I mean, language, this is how language operates everywhere. So there are linguists like me that study languages outside of English, I’m an English linguist, which means mainly what I study isn’t English. But what’s really fascinating is how these patterns that I’ve just discussed are not patterns that are somehow naturally driven. So they’re nothing biological, they have nothing to do with the fact that you’re born female or you’re born male, they have everything to do with the way that society expects you to act because of those designations so and that access to resources that you have as a member of that society. So we find in American English, that women tend overall to use more standard forms of speech. And that’s cuts across sort of ethnic and class lines. If you look across those groups, in every group, and you study the same feature that’s non standard, you typically find that men use non standard features at a higher rate. And so this is things like simple things like walking versus walk in, you know, that alternation in the progressive participle. We find in every group that studied, that’s an English speaker that men use a higher rate of in venting. And women use typically a lower rate, that doesn’t mean that every single woman follows that pattern. But the overall generalization that we find, very, very consistently and this is in World World English is not just American English is that men use more in and women use more ng because ng is considered the more correct version. And it is the more casual sort of laid back version, that we find that distribution. But part of that is because women in this culture are valued for being standard speakers. And a lot of times historically, and ecologically, they’re given jobs in which language is very important. So think about teachers. Historically, teachers have been more women than men. And that, of course, is an area where language is important. So the way you speak to students is going to necessarily be more standard than the way you’d speak if you were, say, in a factory, which have typically been male oriented jobs and what kind of speech is valuable to factory, we It doesn’t matter what progressive participle you use, it’s that you have this sort of language that helps you kind of bond with the other people that are doing this boring job or a lot of cases that will help you communicate if there’s any kind of danger. So in a lot of types of jobs that men historically have held, there might be high rates of danger factory work, it could be equipment, in lumber. or it could be that a tree is falling, right? And firefighting, it might be that there’s a fire coming. So there’s all these different pressures on you, but very few of them are speak standardly. Right? It’s like, Hey, get out of the way, that damn tree, that kind of thing. Yeah. So right, these pressures are different, like, because of how we treat men and women, this culture in terms of jobs that we expect them to have another job that women have historically done more is being the front line of restaurants of banks, of hotels of service industries. And that, again, puts a pressure on women to have more standard speech, versus being in a police force or something like that. How many police men really worry about having standard speech? Not much, because again, it’s a language of solidarity, and brotherhood, right? But you go to a different country like is perhaps in the Middle East, where there’s different norms for behavior for men and women were men are out in professions and women are not women have to rely on solidarity and friendship among other women, primarily, they don’t need to have any kind of outward facing good speech, we find the exact opposite pattern in those cultures, men lead in the use of standard forms, and women lead in the use of non standard features. So we find the same pattern, but for the same reasons, but sometimes it’s reversed based on the social needs of that society.
Scott D Clary 41:16
Now what So then, what does this mean for an increasingly globalized world, because now we’re, we’re working remote working from home on zoom with people from every single country every single day. And I would, I would assume that most people don’t understand the level of detail that one should understand to communicate with an individual in a different society, or a different cultural or a different part of the world. Right. So what does this actually mean? Well, you know, I
Valerie Fridland 41:42
think and that’s sort of what I’m trying to get my main message of the book is, in addition to being fun and learning about these fascinating facts, because there’s so many unbelievable facts about language we don’t understand. And we have these beliefs that they come from these weird places that they don’t come from, or they spontaneously come into existence, and they’re just bad. Almost everything we do has been around for centuries. And there’s a reason we do it. And one thing that I think is my main message of the book is Be compassionate, right? Think about the fact that not everybody comes to language with the same perspective that you do. And the reason they’re doing the things they do is because that has been useful in their own background and their own language in their own existence. And you are following same exact pattern for the same exact reason. So compassion is really key, especially in this new connected world. There are also a number of different things that if we understand the linguistics behind it, it will make it a little easier. And things like the zoom, I mean, Zoom is a weird context. Because first of all, it has a delay, there’s a sort of an internet delay. So that it kind of there’s been a really fascinating study recently that looked at the way that we cognitive process, we sort of process cognitively, the interactions that we have when we talk to people. And we do this thing called like sinking. So when we’re having a conversation in real time with someone in a real spec place, you know, one on one real real conversation in physical space, there, our brains sync up, and they sort of are able to sort of attach to the pattern and the stress pattern and the intonation pattern of that other person. And kind of know when we’re gonna hop in and when we’re not in our brain doesn’t have to do that much work because they’re synced. So it’s not exhausting. How many times have you had a zoom conversation and you’re really tired at the end, and you can’t figure out why. Because your brains can’t sync to the same way because of that lag, that slight lag throws off our automatic syncing. And it makes us have to work harder to process what other people say. And then to jump in and follow up with it. So one thing to remember is that tired this is actually real, physical tiredness from doing heavy cognitive work. And it’s not only you, it’s everybody else on that phone call. So one thing is to think about, well, what does that mean for me as a employer or manager as a participant in these things? Are there things we’re doing on zoom that could be better done elsewhere through other forums, either email, something that’s that asynchronous perhaps, or through a phone call, that we don’t seem to have that same kind of exhaustion when we talk that maybe we should save the zoom for things that we can devote full energy to for a shorter period of time. So one thing is to think about don’t have these, you know, five hour zoom meetings or take breaks so that you let people’s brains kind of have a chance to relax and get over it. The other thing is, Who am I talking to in terms of what culture they’re from? And how do they deal with silence? Because different cultures have different norms for how long a lag to have between different conversational terms and American English speakers don’t like having much time at all. So we don’t like to leave silence out there on the table. But for example, Finn’s and Japanese speakers tend to have much longer silence that’s acceptable and desirable. So of course to them on a phone call on a zoom call. or a phone call with an American English speaker. The American English speaker is constantly talking, jump interruptions, jumping in all the time and basically hogging the conversational floor to an English speaker, American English speaker, a Japanese or Finn is never talking. They’re uninterested. They’re not holding up their end of the conversation. So can you see how this one really simple difference in our cultural norms for talking can create some significant problems from a business perspective?
Scott D Clary 45:29
I love that. That’s fascinating. Okay, I want to actually because actually haven’t spoken about, like your book at all. We’ve talked to cover. There’s a lot this is made. Okay, I will, I will go into the book. I’m just super curious. When you when you listen to me, like what does that say about me, which I want you to like to and I want you to give me like the rundown on on on how I speak and how I present it’s so good and be ruthless. Like you can say whatever you want. Just
Valerie Fridland 46:00
to preface this by when a linguist study speech, what we do is we actually record a bunch of speakers, and then we analyze their speech usually using acoustic equipment. And then we can pull out statistical distribution. So I don’t usually just sort of take it on one person, because speech is usually a glob agglomeration. But that said, I actually now it’s interesting, because I have listened to you do a podcast before I came on, I always like to listen. And one thing I didn’t notice is, you know, men tend to think they don’t ever use like in their speech. And one thing I didn’t notice is you are a quoted of like, pert speaker, you don’t tend to use like in other contexts, but I did hear you actually use quoted of like, which is not surprising, because it’s the probably the fastest expanding use of like, among Americans and Canadians. The study actually that showed it exponential use of quoted of like, over 50%, over 10 years of greater like use among young men and women in particular. So I had noticed that you when you talk about what someone should say, you’ll say, well, they so that if they were like this, if they if they You don’t you don’t say if they said actually say if all of them are like this, which tells me that you’re under 40 Most likely, because it is a useful marker especially quoted of like, a lot of people use discourse marker like, especially older women, you’ll find middle aged women that use it but for quoted of like for a man to use it, usually a young male feature a younger male, not not, you know, a teenager, but teenagers do too. But I did notice that in your speech, and then you have a really interesting vowel raising in about that about. Yeah, that’s Canadian. Yes. And so I was wondering if you were Canadian, based on that I am from Yeah, born in Toronto. Okay. So that’s actually cool Canadian raising. And that sort of stereotypical Canadian features Canadian raising. Now people usually have it wrong. They think people say a beaut, which they don’t write, they say it very subtly, and you have a very subtle Canadian raising your speech. So anyway, that’s my quick and dirty acoustic analysis.
Scott D Clary 48:13
And that’s amazing. And it’s quite funny because a lot of people when they find it on Canadian, they don’t they don’t. They don’t hear any I guess. Canadian. Can air quotes in my in my accent, but sometimes they have mentioned Oh, I hear it when you say about Yes, yes. But it’s only when I’m not thinking about it.
Valerie Fridland 48:32
Just like like there. And how do you say exactly? Yeah, this one word, because this can also be Canadian, but it’s I think it’s older Canadian features. So you may not have it. How do you say the word S O R? R Y? Sorry. Okay. That’s very Canadian. You say sorry?
Scott D Clary 48:50
Sorry. Yeah. What? How do you say how would of America sorry? Sorry, sorry, that sounds weird to
Valerie Fridland 48:56
- Do you say so, so often very Canadian feature. It’s something that if your club have a lot of contact with Americans, we noticed that actually younger speakers can have it dissipating. But it’s a trick. It’s a very traditional Canadian feature to say, Sorry.
Scott D Clary 49:12
That’s so funny. Okay, let’s talk about your book. So the book is like literally dude arguing for the good and bad English. What, what is the argument for the good and bad English? What does that mean?
Valerie Fridland 49:23
Well, so the idea here is sort of what we were talking about before that we have all these preconceived notions when we go into a speaking context about what good English is. And if someone deviates from those norms that we expect them to use, we think all sorts of things about them. And so a lot of times, that’s things that are not in our own speech, we judge other people or we feel very self conscious about those things in our, our speech, because we know we do them and we know other people don’t like them. And we have these ideas based on this very prescriptivist view of language that we’ve been taught since we’ve been you know, born basically our parents tell us so don’t say that. It’s not It’s not here. When I went to the store, it’s it’s he and I write those kinds of things that are very prescriptive as notions that have developed over time, what we don’t realize is those are only moments, right? Those are moments in our speech that we call attention to that over the long haul of language have made no difference. So these prescriptivists views first of all, have only been around since about the 18th century before that, we really didn’t have a lot of prescription like you should do this, you should do that you shouldn’t do this talk like this, don’t talk like that. That didn’t mean we didn’t notice differences in people’s speech. But we didn’t tell them. They were bad speakers because of it and the way that we do now. But these are actually based on misunderstandings of where these features come from, instead of realizing that they’re actually part of the natural evolution of language. And we have done the exact same thing throughout history with things that we think are totally right now. But it’s also that we don’t recognize that speakers do that for very, very good social reasons as well, like people don’t adopt our own our speech because they want something that they’re getting from using those other speech features. And it’s that kind of social pressure that has moved language forward since the time of Old English because if you’ve ever read Beowulf, I think you’ll probably agree with me that a Beowulf is unintelligible to anybody that speaks English today and be it wasn’t really fun to read. Right? So no, it’s
Scott D Clary 51:25
brutal. And I remember that, too. I was like, why are we? Why the hell are
Valerie Fridland 51:29
we studying this? Like, who’s gonna ever need this in life? And probably you’ve done until you meet a linguist. But the reality is, was that great English? No, but if we have if we followed this view that older features are better features than modern English speakers have a lot of explaining to do, because clearly, we have massively changed our language in the last 1000 years. And in fact, the changes to English between the year 10,000 Are we sorry, the year 1000. And the year 1700. Basically, were much more major in terms of radically reshaping the way that English sounded and look like then any changes that have happened in the year since prescription started. So we’re actually really slowing the rate of change. Now, not speeding it up, but people act like we’re decaying language constantly. So this book was just all these features before
Scott D Clary 52:17
you start going. No, no, sorry. Before you keep going. What was the reason for that expedited change?
Valerie Fridland 52:22
Well, there’s invasions, the French the Vikings, right, massive difference, all of that. So yeah, you know, in the eighth and ninth century, we had a lot of Old Norse incursions, which basically was Viking incursions. Well, what we don’t tend to think of is Vikings were actually not that different than what Anglo Saxons were Anglo Saxons were essentially Vikings of an earlier era. They all were from the Great Northern Germanic plains. And so they all spoke kind of related, they all spoke dialects of essentially the same Germanic based language. Anglo Saxons came over several centuries before and then the language started to evolve in certain ways. Because those speakers were isolated, especially back then when you didn’t just pick up the phone or jump on Zoom, you didn’t have a lot of contact. So languages naturally evolved due to underlying linguistic pressures in different directions whenever speakers are separated. And this can be separated by geography or separated by social distance, whatever. So then, when the Vikings started to come over, they spoke Old Norse, which was a similar dialect, basically, of the language the Anglo Saxons spoke, and people think of the Vikings as sort of these vicious people that came over and killed everybody. But actually, and they were I mean, I’m not saying the Vikings were not fabulous, and didn’t only fabulous things they were made, and they killed a lot of people. And, you know, They pillaged and all that, but they also settled a lot in the Anglo Saxon territory, especially in the northern area of Britain. And so they had a lot of assimilation with the Anglo Saxons and so Old Norse because it’s a dialect, whenever you have two dialects that are close together come in contact, they influence each other quite a bit, because those speakers can communicate. So what happens is sort of a leveling, where they kind of get rid of distinctive features and they move towards each other, they become more similar. So a lot of Old Norse features came into the language through Viking contact. And so like that s that s I told you that does that’s actually through Old Norse contact. It was a northern feature that came to us from Old Norse contact, and then a lot of things we noticed in American English. So southern features like Mike could saying things like Mike could those actually come from contact with Scots Irish back in the early days of colonial settlement, so those are again, very similar dialects to other ones that were sort of like the Virginia colonies spoke right? They were from mainly south south eastern British areas. Then you have the Scots Irish that also were in contact and so those those dialects bled together the the history of our language and American English is very similar. It’s just all To contact and then of course, you have the Norman invasion, they brought the French over. And I did talk about this history in the book. And of course, French was the language of government for and of the royal court for hundreds of years. And what happens when you elevate a language, it becomes the powerful language. It’s the one everybody wants to know if they want to work in that area, if they want to have social status of a certain type. Those that don’t speak it, by default become colloquial vernacular speakers that we kind of Lilla you know, those are scuzzy people, we don’t want to talk to them. Well, that was what English was, English was the scuzzy language, right? You didn’t get educated in English, you didn’t make laws in English, you didn’t have religious ceremonies in English, because English was considered a sort of gross, vulgar language, it was the language of common people. I mean, that is what English is, right? So the French, though we borrowed a ton of vocabulary, we got new sound. So for example, F and V didn’t exist in English as separate sounds until contact with the French, which is why we have that weird spelling and words, words like knife, and knives, and wife and wives, that’s actually from this contact with French, that gave us these two different sounds that we actually now treat differently, which we didn’t in Old English, so massive changes to the language over time. And then in the early modern period, the drastic change was that English rose up as the language of power. And then that massively changed English because it started to be used in government started to be used in education, it started to be used in law, it started to be used in the court, which then elevated forms of English to be the standard over the things that had been associated with French. So all of those were pretty massive changes. And according to you know, modern times, we really haven’t had that much excitement. So not much has happened in English in the last few 100 years compared to all those massive changes at that time.
Scott D Clary 56:52
Let’s speak about some of those filled pauses that you were speaking about previously, the arms and the US. So I even made a point at the beginning that that was the one thing that I I don’t know anything about linguistics. But I do know that I was not supposed to when presenting fill things with arms and ahhs and I know that when you record a podcast and post production, if you do the editing, that’s the parts that you’re cutting out to make sure that it flows quicker. So what are those? Where did they come from? Why did we do them? What purpose do they have in our communication?
Valerie Fridland 57:23
What and that what’s so funny is so many people have told me I cut every option out of my recordings. Because that is a widespread belief. I mean, no one has ever gone to a public speaking class and been told no, stick your arms in there awesome. No one ever zero. But that means no one has read the literature that suggests that I’m an are actually very, very positive features in our speech. Now, I’m not saying that they’re positively perceived, because that’s clearly not true, right? We don’t like them. But this is a case, a perfect example of where linguistic reality and social preferences do not meet. So sometimes we have features that arise in our feet or speech to meet needs that we have as speakers of a language. And those can be cognitive needs in terms of what’s preferred in a structure linguistically, it can be social needs, in terms of how what how communication and connect connections can be made more effectively. And then sometimes we have needs that arise because of social preferences that have developed in the world around us in businesses and schools that tell us to do something a certain way. Sometimes those are in tandem. And we can get the same benefit from using the thing that’s linguistically preferred. And the thing that’s socially preferred, sometimes they’re in opposition. And that’s exactly what has happened with Phil pauses. Phil pauses come up, because we’re doing heavy cognitive retrieval. So it’s basically a signal that our head or our brain is working overtime. And usually this happens when we’re processing more difficult or new information. So we have basically more neural firings that are needed when we have we’re hearing something new for the first time than when we hear something many, many times over. And a great example of how integrating new information takes more cognitive effort and causes us to pause more or fill fill or pauses more is a study that was done where they had people look at a picture and describe the picture. And then they would have them describe the picture over and over again, what you find is in their first description of the picture, they use a much higher filled pause rate than in their third description of the picture. Because they’re not doing as much cognitive processing. Because they’ve already explained it. They’ve already gone through the stages in their head. They know what they’re going to say they’ve built the sentences, they’ve come up with the vocabulary. There’s not much effort involved. But when they’re working harder, they’re coming up with new words. They’re using infrequent words, they’re constructing long sentences they’re making in sort of embedded phrases in a different Senate. All of those actually take additional cognitive effort and that is where we see hums and others come into play. So the idea that comes in as are tied to anxiety is really not well established. What it seems to be more tied to is hard cognitive effort and that often comes up in cases where we might also be anxious, which is why I think people conflate those two. So when we’re giving a presentation, that usually involves bigger words, and we usually use familiar, less familiar words than we usually use, because you don’t talk at home, like you do at the office and are in a business presentation. And you’re, you’re using bigger sentences, right? Because you’re probably not taking a lot of background information for granted like you would when you talk among friends, and you’re building out bigger, syntactic structures. Well, it also is a nerve wracking experience to be giving a public presentation, and therefore it seems like we’re coming in because we’re nervous. But actually, we’re having an iron because we’re doing really heavy cognitive work. So now people do have rates of almonds on us. So some people do them a lot. Some people do them less than that does seem to be a kind of personal attribute. I mean, certainly it is true that Heavy Armors are generally less well received than Light Armors. But the reality is we come in as a speaker, for a couple of reasons. But one of them is basically we’re doing heavy cognitive retrieval. And so we’re that’s giving us a moment to get our thoughts together, it’s helping us retrieve the vocabulary out of a sea of other vocabulary words, that would come to mind more quickly. So if you’re using a less familiar word, what’s gonna come to mind more quickly are the more familiar words. So you have to kind of wade through that cognitively to get to that word that’s less familiar. And so that’s why oftentimes, have you ever been in that place where you’re trying to come up with a word you like? It’s because you’re like marking, marking, marking, I’m working, I’m working on working. But why we fill our pauses with a sound because we could just take out a silent pause seems to be because not only are we thinking harder, but we want to signal to our listener, that they need to give us a moment to come up with what we’re going to say and don’t take our turn from us. So it’s sort of a communicative aid, that tells someone that’s listening to you. I have something more to say. So you know, don’t go away and don’t jump in my conversation. You know, don’t don’t steal the floor from me. Which is why when you’re talking either to Siri or Alexa, or when a computer or you’re talking in a context where you’re telling a story, and you wouldn’t expect to get interrupted, we don’t see filled pauses come up as often. So the same speaker will decrease the rate of filled pauses in contexts where floor theft is not an option, compared to when they’re in a casual conversation.
Scott D Clary 1:02:17
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Valerie Fridland 1:04:18
now that so what’s interesting is what you’re talking about are silent pauses between turns, which we call turn transition cues. And those are actually different. So think about when you come to the end of a Senate. You don’t usually go Yeah, so I had a great time at that party. Right? That’s not That’s not what you say to tell someone. It’s their turn to talk. Right. So what we’re talking about actually, when I say that is that that space that comes between conversational turns and it serves as a turn transition cue which tells someone else Oh, it’s your turn to talk. Right? And that’s what I was talking about in that context. But yes, that take into your question were directly every single language ever studied has filled pauses. And not only do they have one filled pause Every language studied so far has more than one field pause, generally at least two, like Japanese, for example, has a, an auto, as well as several others. And Dutch has F and M, right? French has a an M. So you have all these filled pauses. Now, the reason the Indo European languages sound very similar is that actually we hypothesize that they all or those filled pauses probably all originated from a source language. So for example, all Germanic languages have essentially the same two pauses. And I’m slightly different with the vowels based on whatever vowel context that language has. But that suggests to us that they’re inherited from proto Germanic, which probably got them from indo European, which is like why French has very similar because it’s an indo European language, even though it’s not a Germanic one. So yes, all languages do have them, they seem to serve the same purpose. And the reason they seem to have to, is really fascinating, because we don’t tend to think there’s a substantive difference between an arm and if you think about it, why would we need synonyms for a filled pause, which is just sort of a thing that we insert in our speech, it seems kind of odd. But if you look at the length of the pause that people have, after they are compared to the length of the pause that he people take after they, um, we find us to statistical difference between them, so that US signals you just need a quick sec, um, signals you need to take longer. So it actually seems to be listener directed, so that listeners will know how long they have before you’re going to finish your thought. So a lot of times, if I, uh, we find that people try to, don’t try to fill in what we’re struggling with. So have you ever been talking to someone that’s, I mean, a lot. And you’re like, Wait, do you mean this? Do you mean that? Well, what’s interesting is, if you hear them a because, you know, it means they’re not having as much difficulty, it’s not going to take them as long, you don’t have to do that to the same degree, if you arm someone is more likely to try to hop in and help you because that signals to them you’re struggling more with whatever you’re processing. So there’s a really interesting, fascinating difference between the amount of times we the amount of time we need for N versus N. And that the final fascinating fact about your civil pauses because there are so many is that not only do they help you as a speaker, when cognitive processing and communicating a lag or speech delay, they really help you study show as a listener, in both being quicker to process what someone says, integrate new information faster and remember it better later. So not only do your eyes and ears help you signal to a listener, like okay, they’re gonna take a minute, but that listener upon hearing those seems to take it as a cognitive flag that whatever follows the Phillips pause is more is more difficult to process that seems to cue their their interest and their cognitive effort towards it. So they get kind of more neural firings directed towards that, which makes them quicker to anticipate what you’re going to say and predict it quicker to integrate new information, if it’s something novel in that context. And that it also seems to then cement it in their memory better so that if you give them for example, pop quiz an hour later, they’ll remember words that had an iron on before them better than they remember words that didn’t. So if you think about that’s pretty damn impressive for something we think of as bad habits, right?
Scott D Clary 1:08:23
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s it’s exceptional. I’ve I’ve never thought about this much before. This is amazing. Let’s Can we can we talk about profanity? And I want to understand its place in language and communication. So what is the psychological impact? Or what is the psychological reasoning? Why people swear?
Valerie Fridland 1:08:45
Well, you know, there have been I don’t study profanity, myself, but I have read some of the literature on why people do it. And there seems to be sort of an emotional response that is helping us process when we use profanity. So for the same reason that we express ourselves in different ways. linguistically, when we switch between saying something with a more formal context and saying something informal, that’s actually doing something for us from a socio cultural kind of perspective, when we swear, it seems to be something that helps us to feel better, it’s helping us express an emotion, an emotional reaction, just in the same way. Like it’s encoding an emotion in the same way that Oh, is encoding of surprise. So if I say something like, Oh, my God, listen to this, that Oh, is actually an exclamation that’s encoding. This is surprise here. This is an emotion of surprise that I’m expressing I’m having and I want you to share it. Right. And so we actually find that my understanding of what we find with swearing is it comes from a different side of the brain that processes emotion and response. And so it is actually a way to help us process these emotions that we’re feeling usually anger or frustration or something like that. And what’s really fascinating about swearing is, of course, you know, it’s really much more prevalent today than it was in, you know, something like the 1920s when it wasn’t widely accepted, but we see an uptick in bad words or bad language, you know obscenities after World War Two. And it seems like what happened is when soldiers went overseas and experienced probably the worst things they ever experienced in life, profanity, offered them a way to process those experiences, to commiserate over those experiences to express exactly how deeply it affected them. And they brought profanity home. So they they had those experiences, they brought it home. And that way we see actually women start to use it at a higher rate, because their husbands came home, they were using profanity, they were describing experiences that were highly emotional, and profanity helped emphasize the intensity of that emotion. And so then it became more prevalent in people’s speech every day when they also wanted to express an intensity of emotion.
Scott D Clary 1:11:01
So I know I know, you don’t study this, if you if you if you don’t have the literature on it, then that’s fine. But I’m, I’m very curious. If if swearing profanity, you mentioned that it’s mostly for the person who’s actually speaking, it’s not for the recipient. There’s no correlation between profanity and level of trustworthiness or level of, of authenticity and delivery of message, like, I’m thinking of like the Gary V’s of the world, that swear casually, right, you know, and he stands behind that full, I’d
Valerie Fridland 1:11:30
be interested, I don’t know, the literature on that, sort of, you’re talking about sort of perceptual response to swearing. My, my suspicion would be it would depend on context, right, it wouldn’t be equivalently, perceived well in or more trustworthy in different contexts. So you know, if you swear, in a professional place, where more traditional norms are, what are considered appropriate, then I doubt that would make you feel more trustworthy, because it would be a violation of corporate culture in that context, right. And the expectation would be, you understand the corporate culture here. And you understand that that’s an appropriate versus maybe in Silicon Valley, where it’s much more laid back, that would come across as a more authentic self. So I actually think that it would depend on the context you’re studying it in. But I just from what I know about other things about how informal speech tends to make you more sort of sociable and credible in many contexts, because if you overuse overly stiff or more formal language, it comes across as learned in high status, but also can be kind of arrogant, pretentious. And when we get into more informal speech, it feels more trustworthy, more like this is a person I know this is a friend, that profanity could operate the same way. But I don’t know the literature on that. If I find any, though, I’d be happy to send you something
Scott D Clary 1:12:48
I would do a whole show on that. That’s fascinating. I just find it fascinating because even I, I think to myself, and you know, when I swear, it’s not always it’s not always emotional. So I’m trying to figure out why I would do it. Well, I would, why would say in a sentence that has, you know, consciously no emotion attached to that sentence? Maybe there is subconsciously I don’t know, I think it seems like there’s not.
Valerie Fridland 1:13:10
So a lot of times, what we do is we have something that is born in one circumstance. So swearing came from an emotional core emotional response. And it was in response to that we did it first. But a lot of times what we find with language is these, these things that language has come to represent then get picked up and moved to a different context that is more metaphorical or figurative. So Oh, for example, is a metaphorical extension of surprise, does that make sense that you’ve taken from an explanation to use it in a we’re in a, as a sort of discourse marker, that’s telling your listener Hey, this is where we’re going to shift to something that is new information that you didn’t know, and it should surprise you, right, you’re giving them a heads up about it. So it’s already a figurative use of something that was once just an exclamation of surprise when someone jumps out of a closet at you. So that, again, is a good example of where swearing could have that same thing. Swearing mainly became something that was sort of an expression of intensity, and surprise, and shock, whatever. And that now is sort of used for emphasis, and intensity, removed from its original use in more conversational speech. So that would be something that would be very, very normal. And in fact, intensification in general, comes from that kind of space. So when we say things like he’s very good, or terrifically awesome, or totally great. The reason we have those words is to express intensity or emphasis. And in fact, those words are called adverbial. intensification. That’s what we call it. But most words that serve as intensifiers started as something else that had a different meaning, that got semantically bleached down to meaning just extremely so very, for example, is originally from a word that meant actual or true. So in Old English, you would find people will actually it was To be Middle English, because it came from French. But in Middle English early on around 1300, you would see references to Jesus as the very Prophet, which met the true prophet, he was the true prophet. But later on, about a century later, you start to see it as he was a very proper fool, which is actually a quote from Chaucer. And that means he was a true proper fool, which means he had all the qualities of being a proper fool, which is an intensification of being a proper fool. So what over time happens is the meaning of true gets bleached out, and all that’s left a very, is that it means a lot. So I’m very happy means I’m extremely happy. It doesn’t mean I’m true, it means I’m very happy. But we can still see very retaining some aspects of that meaning when we say on this very spot, he died, which means arm this true or exact spot. So I do so what I’m sort of the example I’m using this for is that this one sense of very got extrapolated, and became the prominent use of very today, I feel like profanity could have worked the same way, this emotional sense of what a word meant, in one context, this emphatic in sort of intensity that when you said a cuss word, it brought into the context, God extrapolated. So now when I say Damn, I’m happy. When I’m not saying like, I’m having this emotional experience. It’s like I’m intensifying my happiness. Right. So it’s, again, extrapolated to the context from its original use, but no longer carries that same original emotional intensity. Does that make sense?
Scott D Clary 1:16:35
It makes it makes a ton of sense. I have one more I have one more question. And it’s, we’re actually moving away from profanity, and we’re moving away from longer time periods. I’m curious about accents. I’m curious. I don’t know if this is your specialty at all. I’m just throwing stuff on you now. And just hoping you answer. Give me so I’m so curious. So when you look at someone and they’re they came from one country to another country, and say they moved from anywhere in anywhere in the world to the US. And over their lifespan, they’ve started to sound quote, unquote, American, you know, and but this, another person will move to the US and their entire lifespan, they’ll have an accent from wherever they originally came from. Why is that? Well, why is that even? I’ll give you an even better example. Even in you know, so my girlfriend, she has two sisters. My girlfriend’s a little bit of an accent. Her two sisters have no accent. They’re all very young her older than
Valerie Fridland 1:17:32
she is. they’re younger. Okay, that’s your trick. So I actually this is my specialty. I do a lot of work. I’m a socio fauna Titian, which means I do a lot of work on speech sounds and why they come to be and how they work, cognitively. And there are a number of things that enter into the question that you asked about why some people have stronger accents and others and what accents are were basically an accent is related to speech sounds. So when we talk about someone to accent, the only thing that actually means is they have a sound to their speech that’s uniquely identifying them as being from somewhere else or something different. A fallacy is that we don’t have an accent we do because if we go somewhere else, they’ll say, Oh, you’re an American, it’s because of your accent. We just don’t hear it because we’re talking to other people that sound the same way. So what happens is, when you have a language that’s not English, mostly, they have different systems of sounds, typically in the vowel, so English is extremely vowel promiscuous language, which means we just pop vowels out everywhere, you know, we have a ton of vowels in English, it’s not ideal, which is why we have a lot of stuff going on with our vowels in American English, they’re changing a lot. But if you look at the majority of other languages, they have around five vowels. So for example, Spanish has five vowels. So what happens when you go from a five vowel system to a 13, or 14 vowel system, which is what English is, and I say 13, or 14, because it depends on the dialect of English speaking? Well, you have to come up with something for those vowels. So you then say the vowel in your system of those five vowels that’s closest to one of those 13 vowels, which then makes you sound different because you’re not using the same vowel as someone that speaks that language. So a lot of times accents are deeply tied to vowel pronunciation because that tends to be something that really differs among different cultures, among different languages. So the trick is, the reason we have certain sounds is because we’ve learned those as babies as infants, we find that children are able to recognize the sounds of their language by a year old. So at six months, they don’t seem to notice they notice human speech sounds opposed to other sounds, but they they will equally devote attention to every speech sound no matter whether it’s in their language or not. But So th is a good example of the sound of the sound via English is unusual and having that sound many many languages don’t so for example, my mother is a French speaker, she still says want to tweet, because French doesn’t have a sound. So a baby at an English baby will understand both thought and tone I’m at six months and so with a French speaking baby, but by a year old, a French speaking baby will filter out the thud sound because it’s not relevant to their language, whereas the American baby will still pay attention to it and suck harder. That’s how we measure baby attention. They’ll set harder on a sort of electronic pacifier that can turn into bits that are sucking right to a computer. When they hear that sound meaning they’re recognizing that that’s part of their speech sound that they start babbling you know, if you’ve had a baby or been around babies, they do weird things with their mouths. And they’re like, man, yeah, baa, baa, baa baa, and they make a lot of noises. That is dumb actually practicing to make those sounds. So they’re exercising their our sort of physiological ability to make certain sounds. And like anything with practice, the more you do it, the better you get. But if you don’t do something, learning a new skill, no matter what it is, is hard. It takes time. And we’re often very good at the things we learned from being a very at a young age and bad at the things we learn at a later age. Well, that’s exactly what happened, speech sounds you have been practicing and setting your articulatory mechanism to make these particular speech sounds since you were born, but all sudden, you come into a language as an adult, or an older adolescent, and you have a whole bunch of new sounds that you haven’t processed before, cognitively, you haven’t practiced physiologically, and you kind of use your own system to understand that language. And that prohibits you in some ways from adopting that language as a native speaker. So that’s sort of the background, the question you asked is, why are some people better than others? Well, some of us are better at doing the analysis as an older adult on sort of the new distribution of sounds. And we just find certain people do that better. And that’s partially tied to motivation, it depends on your motivation for doing it. It often depends on how close or distant your own system was from the one you’re learning. But it often seems to depend on whether how well you perceive sounds, how well you sort of analyze the statistical distributions. And that just seems to be blind luck, because like, some people are good at it. Some people are less good the same way that people are good at hearing music or not like tonality of music. So it does seem to be there’s some innate predisposition that makes you better or worse at it. But the key is age of acquisition. The older you are, when you’re exposed to a new system, the worse you tend to be at acquiring it. So I would suggest that with your girlfriend, because her sisters are younger, they had earlier exposure and longer to adjust to it at an earlier age. And that really seems to make a big impact on how language is learned and how accents are gotten rid of.
Scott D Clary 1:22:41
I love this. Okay. So let’s let’s, let’s wrap this up. I want to give the floor over to you. So I guess, too, I always ask a question at the end. But I’ll say that for a second. Two things, anything else that you wanted to go into? or teach over to the audience that we haven’t gone into Feel free? And then also, more importantly, what can people get out of your new book? Where can they go get it and all of your social and whatnot.
Valerie Fridland 1:23:08
Okay, well, so I think, you know, the big thing is everything we’ve talked about, though a lot of it wasn’t directly from the book, although some of it was like the arms and ahhs and the intensifiers, and things, but it’s all about these questions that we have as speakers of human language. I don’t think there’s anybody alive in any language that has never questioned their own speech or the speech of other people. You know, it’s not just because we’re judgmental, it’s because we are indoctrinated into a really firm belief about what’s good language and what’s bad language. And the problem is, it’s it’s an issue of equity for one because we tend to judge certain people speeches better and there’s reason socio historically for that. But it’s also an accuracy, because a lot of what we believe about language and why people do it, and what’s bad is based on erroneous facts, so it will blow your mind where a lot of these speech features come from. So for example, like, where does it come from? Well, Valley girls, right? If I asked you, you probably say what Southern California it’s Valley girls. And wrong, it is actually centuries old. If we look back in set the 1700s to British trial transcripts, which because obviously, we didn’t have recordings, we have to rely on transcripts, there is something called the Old Bailey proceedings, which were criminal trial proceedings that were rigorously transcribed verbatim for about 200 years. So if we look back in the 1700s, in Britain, we find like used as a discourse marker. We also find it in literature at that time. But if you look in New Zealand at some recordings in New Zealand did this wonderful project called I think, was called the ALMS project done in the middle of the 20th century where they recorded really old New Zealanders before they died, who had come over from British backgrounds in the late 1800s. So these were people born in the late 1800s, I guess but they used like, just like we use it today at the beginning of sentences for cohesion. We also find in octogenarian rural speakers in Britain, they use like the same way. So this is actually a British feature. And it wasn’t until it got noticed with Southern California Valley Girl speakers in the eighth in the 1980s, that we all suddenly like, oh my god, like, it’s everywhere. It’s all it’s a bad thing. But actually, it is centuries old. And it has fascinating reasons for why it emerged. So it’s really about accuracy. If you really want to know why people do this, it’s easy to dismiss them. But then you’d miss the reality of why people change language and have through centuries. And my book is really about getting to understand why we do the things we do in language. It’s also really funny, I have fun with it. I want people to enjoy reading it. It will help you understand your kids. If you have teenagers, it will help you understand your employees if you have young employees, and it will help you understand yourself if you use any type of non standard speech marker in your speech. So if you say like if you use vocal fry, if you I’m an A if you’ve ever said dude in your life, if you’re struggling with singular they, any of those things, you can find that in the book.
Scott D Clary 1:26:08
I love it. Okay, where do they go? What’s the socials that you want to send people to on the web? Okay,
Valerie Fridland 1:26:12
well, my website will have information on other things I’ve written, and as well as the book. So that’s just Valerie friedland.com. And I’m sure you’ll have the link in your show notes so that I don’t have to spell that out. Because it’s, of course a little tricky to spell. But that has a lot of information. I also write a monthly blog for Psychology Today. So it’s called language in the wild. You can just either go to my website to find it or if you search Valerie Fridland Psychology Today, it’ll come right up. And I pick fun things like swearing, there’s actually an a one on swearing, so I’ll have to send you that link. So that’s where they can find me. I don’t do a lot on social, but you can find me at two on Twitter. fridlin, Valerie’s my handle there and also on LinkedIn.
Scott D Clary 1:26:54
Okay, perfect. All right. So last question. I asked everyone, before we end this out, you’ve had an incredible career. Writing books, you’re I mean, you’ve taught at multiple universities. Very, very impressive. After everything that you’ve achieved in your life, what does success mean to you?
Valerie Fridland 1:27:11
Oh, yeah, that’s a really great question. Because it’s something I have thought about a lot in the last few years, as I’ve sort of evolved in terms of what I’m doing in my career. And I think if you’d asked me 20 years ago, when I was first starting out, I would have said, financial success. You know, that’s what of course, every 25 year old is thinking when they’re going on the job, right? I want to do something that’s cool. And I want to have money, I want to be successful that success. I think for a lot of young people, maybe some people are better than me, and don’t think that but that’s probably what I thought of in my 20s. But as I’ve gotten older and wiser, and also done more work, what I realized is freedom, to me is really the ultimate success, the freedom to pursue the things you like and not have to do the things that really you don’t like, because half of what you do, no matter whether it’s a job you love, or a job you hate is something you don’t enjoy about that, right. So for me, it was administration, I’m a professor. And I really do enjoy teaching. I’m still close friends with students I’ve had 20 years ago, because I try to be meaningful in their life in some way. And I really try to support them, because I think mentorship is really key. So it’s to me, that’s a really valuable part of my job. I love to write, I’d love to share what I learned. It’s passion for me, because I find it so fascinating. I think everybody else has to be also fascinated by this. So those are the things I like. But I’ve also had to do a lot of ministration like, I hate forms, I hate them, if I had to fill out another form or write a report or oversee somebody or, you know, give lessons and lectures to students behaving badly, or professors behaving badly, both of which I’ve had to do. Because I was a director of the department for a while. I don’t like that I really I did it because it was my civic responsibility. And it was what it meant to be in a career like I was in. But I felt really awful. In that phase of my life. I did six years as a director. And while I had cherished moments and experiences in that, I will say it’s not what I like to do at all. Now that I’m a full professor, and I’m kind of at the ending stage of my career and sort of seniority. I get to do what I love, which is right and teach and I don’t have to do nearly as much administration. And so to me, I think the freedom to pursue my interests rather than my obligations is really been success in the last few years.