Inflection based folk speech

At the start of last year, the informant’s roommate came back from his hometown with a unique speech pattern the informant had not heard up until that point. According to the informant, his roommate picked it up from his friends in Peachtree City, Georgia, but the exact origin or cause of this speech pattern was unknown to him.

This speech is interesting in that it has absolutely nothing to do with the content of what the speaker is literally saying. Rather than emphasize the words said, when speaking in this way you emphasize the cadence or inflection of your sentence. Depending on what part of the sentence the speaker emphasizes, the sentence can have many different and specific meanings. The informant told me that “when we inflect the beginning of a sentence heavily it lets us know that we can disregard anything that is said after the first few words. This essentially allows us to say whatever we feel like while still communicating what we need to communicate. It allows us to show the essence of what we are trying to say without worrying about the details. For example if I were to say Don’t go over there I’m trilling out, my friends would not try to understand what ‘I’m trilling out’ means but would rather just accept not go go over there.” He went on to say that in a sense, using inflection over content allows him to be free in his speech while still being understood by his peers.

He went on to explain different meanings that the inflection point of the sentence can have. For example by inflecting the last phrase of a sentence, it lets his friends know that he is making a self-aware joke about himself and not to take anything in the sentence literally. He expressed that because of his groups often random sense of humor that this use of their speech is critical as it instantly and definitively clears any confusion as to whether what was said is a joke or not.

As far as popularity of this speech pattern, my informant told me that “while [their folk speech] is not universal among college students, it is used somewhat frequently by members of the film school here and by members of the Peachtree City Community… assuming what [his roommate] told us is true.” At the very least he made it clear that his group of friends and acquaintances use this inflection based speech frequently. This is very interesting because the inflection based dialog, coupled with the fact that it can be (and was revealed to often be) used alongside humor suggests that the sense of humor among this group is at times so hard to follow that even the members themselves had to develop a new speech pattern to signify when something is or is not a joke. I have attached sound clips of these two types of inflections.