Language Matters: What Words, Tone and Accents Say About Who We Are w/Valerie Fridland

Language, our vocal pitches and accents are the ultimate marker of identity. The words we speak and how we say them affect how people perceive us and even our ability to build authority. 

As parents, there are facets of our kids’ vocabulary that we might not get, like why they say ‘sus’ and ‘fire’, but these words actually reveal a lot about history, culture and identity. 

How does language evolve over time? What linguistic features are unique to women, and how can we use them to our advantage? 

In this episode, I’m joined by professor of linguistics and author of LIKE, LITERALLY, DUDE, Valerie Fridland. 

We have a fascinating conversation about interesting things about speech, language and how we communicate.

What we find in language is the unexpected, the novel is always more powerful than the same old, same old, and that is one of the main drivers of change.

-Valerie Fridland

3 Things You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • It’s not bad English, it’s the evolution of English
    As parents, we might think our kids using words like ‘sus’ and ‘fire’ are decaying the language, but are these truncations completely normal?
  • How to be heard the way you want
    Women have developed strategies to be polite and still get themselves heard. How do we take advantage of beliefs people have about vocal pitch?
  • Vocal fry and “Valley Girl accents”
    Are some of the things that are seen as annoying and negative actually a way for women to have more authority?

Guest Bio

Valerie Fridland is a professor of linguistics in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. She writes a popular language blog on Psychology Today called Language in the Wild, and is also a professor for The Great Courses series. She is the author of LIKE, LITERALLY, DUDE: Arguing for the Good in Bad English. In it, she delivers a lively exploration of the speech habits we love to hate—and why our “likes”s and “literally”s actually make us better communicators. For more information, head to https://www.valeriefridland.com/

Buy LIKE, LITERALLY, DUDE: Arguing for the Good in Bad English on Amazon, and read her Psychology Today column Language in the Wild here.


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