Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Like-speak - goes with Uptalk


Like-speak is to intelligence what Uptalk is to personality

The useful term 'Uptalk', for a rising, pseudo-questioning, intonation at the end of each and every sentence -


- seems to describe a characteristically modern young person's attribute: either pathological diffidence, or an affection of it.

So, up-talk could be regarded as an aspect of personality - providing probabilistic information on a person's disposition.


The other distinctive speech pathology of modern young persons could be termed Like-speak - it is the use of the work 'like' to start, finish and/or punctuate every sentence.

"Like, I was walking down the road like; and this - like - guy... he was like shouting 'Fire' and, like, I was like 'Errr!. And like he says like: run! So I was like [makes stunned facial expression], then I was like [makes running gesture with fingers] like... (and so on).


So, what does this frequent punctuation with like signify?

Answer: low intelligence (or, more rarely, an affectation of low intelligence).

More accurately, like-speak is mostly a matter of low intelligence trying to disguise itself.


This is fairly obvious - but I have scientific evidence!


The graph shows the positive and significant correlation between language complexity and working memory - and (not shown) working memory is positively correlated with general intelligence (g) - therefore:

Language complexity is positively correlated with intelligence

Furthermore, it seems that language spontaneously tends to be produced at the maximum level of complexity possible for a given level of intelligence.

So the more intelligent you are, the more complex your language; and vice versa.


(That is why you can fairly reliably estimate someone's intelligence from just talking with them, on almost any topic. Because, unconsciously and automatically, you are evaluating the complexity of their language. Of course, this only works for people of equal or lesser intelligence than yourself.)


Like-speak breaks-up language into smaller, hence less-complex units - or, as a generalization and to put it the way around which reflects causation - people who use like-speak cannot produce more complex language.

Instead they are forced to break language into smaller and more manageable and less-complex units, by continually interjecting 'like'.

Instead of talking in long and continuous sentences, like-speakers are - in effect - talking in tiny, fragmentary, partial-sentences.

But they can't help it: That is all they can manage!


Each 'like' comes (ahem) like a momentary 'cognitive rest' and regrouping when the maximum complexity point has been reached; after which another new simple unit of language can be emitted until the complexity-limit is again reached when the next 'like' is inserted to provide another cognitive rest.

And, what is objectionable about like-speak is not the low intelligence of like-speakers, there is nothing wrong with low intelligence - in fact I have several friends who are low in intelligence (irony alert) - but the intrinsic pretentiousness of trying to appear more intelligent than you really are.


But is all this really true? - surely interjecting like is just the latest fashion in coolness?

Maybe so; but more likely there is always some such fashion which provides the less intelligent with an 'excuse' to cover-up their simplicity of language which would otherwise 'give away' their inability to express themselves in more complex language.

If not the word 'like', then phrases such as 'you know', or  'he says/ she says', or 'man' or...




  1. I always wondered, like, how people with IQs of, like, 100, I mean, - maybe! - (all right, I'll stop) can confidently say that someone else has an IQ of 160 or 180. How the heck would THEY know? Especially if they concoct intelligence tests for a living. But maybe this "working memory" test can give a concrete measure. Still....

  2. Nicholas Fulford1 October 2013 at 16:58

    I think it is likely for a person with an IQ in excess of 90 to guage generally up to at most two standard deviations (30 points) from where they are in terms of intelligence with reasonable confidence, (unless someone of higher IQ is trying to mask their IQ by toning down the complexity of their speech and using such methods as "like"-speak.) Based on my own IQ, I know when someone is very-bright, bright, average, dull, or very dull with respect to me, when they are not trying to downward mask their intelligence. Move past a 30 point difference, (and especially on the upward side), and I cannot guage if a person is 40 or 60 points above my IQ, as both are of stellar intelligence from where I sit. On the downward side, I think that there is more accuracy than on the upward due to the inherent advantage of being more intelligent than the person(s) being observed. (Can they speak coherently about simple things? Are they able to keep themselves clean? Can they, and how long to they take to solve simple practical problems encountered in daily life?)

    One indicator is the friends you choose. Most people do not associate closely with non-family members who are much less or more intelligent than themselves. (There is a certain amount of like attracts like, if you will pardon the expression.) It is unusual to have friends with an IQ difference that is greater than 30, as the areas of intersection of interest and ability will be such that one will be bored, and the other overwhelmed.

    As for the term "whatever", I have a particular fondness for it, as it expresses contempt with such raw disregard of the idea or the person as to be extremely derogatory.

    And as an aside ... for those that hate politically-correct-speak, you must somehow acquire "Political Correct Bedtime Stories" ... see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politically_Correct_Bedtime_Stories

  3. Uptalk! I was wondering if there was a term for intoning every sentence as if* it was a question.

    *Using synonyms to avoid the dreaded "L" word.

  4. I can't bear "whatever". I'm resolved to say "whatsoever".

  5. The Continental Op1 October 2013 at 22:52

    It's depressing to hear today how stupid everyone sounds, the way they jackhammer my mind with like-speak, I want to become a hermit.

  6. I can't bear "whatever". I'm resolved to say "whatsoever".

    Hahahahahahahahaha... I would LOVE to hear someone say that, in the context that Nick was talking about.

    Guy: Hey babe, you coming over tonite?

    Chick: No way, I have to wash my hair.

    Guy: Fine, whatsoever.

    On the OP's overall thesis: I don't know, it's probably true generally, but I do lapse into "like-speak" when I'm around certain crowds, in the same way that one's native accent can come out when visiting home (for example). I'm not sure my IQ temporarily goes down, though. Or maybe it does; that would be interesting.

  7. I always associated "language complexity" with someone trying to sound smarter than they are. There's a level of intelligence in which you can speak in long sentences and use a lot of Latinate words, and then there's a level above *that* when you figure out how to fit complex ideas into simple forms.

    As for uptalk: I personally hate it, but I've accepted that it's a regional aspect of language rather than a reliable indicator of intelligence. My Australian relatives all speak with a rising intonation, because that's just what (most) Australians do -- to them, most non-uptalk accents sound flat and weird and unfriendly.

  8. @C - Well if you look at that graph there is a correlation, but it isn't very tight - lots of individual exceptions. Of course a lot of like-speakers are mimicking, and switch it on and off (although I suspect that, if their language was transcribed, it could be seen that they accidentally betray their too-high intelligence by forgetting to say 'like' often enough, and emitting the occasional long and complex sentence).

    My point is to ask what is driving the process of like-speak - which actually dates back quite a long way, decades at least - but using different words or phrases.

    I think it is essentially a phenomenon of the over-promoted society, in which - at any given social position - the majority of people are over-promoted, working beyond their competence.

    This leads to all sorts of pathologies of language, padding out simple language with stereotypical slogans, breaking up language into simpler units, and so on.

    The fact that this then becomes mimicked by the less prevalent cleverer people is secondary - underlying the change is endemic incompetence.

  9. Did you follow the Journal of Neuroscience article a year or so ago (Matthew Jones of U of Bristol) contending that cannabis use disrupted the brain's (for want of a better term) orchestration function and might be tied to the onset of schizophrenia? Not surprising if you've ever been around a stoner trying to convey an idea.

    You might recall that Rachel Jeantel was a big pot smoker. The great and the good writing in American newspapers and even Britain's own Piers Morgan (inflicted on the poor USA as retribution for what exactly?) all contended that her incoherence (blamed on ebonics) was a 'cultural' thing . . . wiser minds had their doubts.

  10. @Curle - Cannabis can temporarily exacerbate an already existing psychotic illness - but it does NOT cause (real) schizophrenia.

    (by 'real' schizophrenia I mean mostly what used to be called Hebephrenia - mainly characterized by thought disorder.)

    Indeed (real) schizophrenia seems to have become much rare in recent years