Proceedings of the Xth Conference, Helsinki 2008
Edited By Martti Vainio, Reijo Aulanko and Olli Aaltonen
6. Prosodic features of very short utterances in dialogue 57
PROSODIC FEATURES OF VERY SHORT UTTERANCES IN DIALOGUE Jens Edlund Mattias Heldner Antoine Pelcé 1 Introduction A large number of vocalizations in everyday conversation are traditionally not regarded as part of the information exchange. Examples include confirmations such as yeah and ok as well as traditionally non-lexical items, such as uh-huh, um, and hmm. Vocalizations like these have been grouped in different constellations and called different names, for example backchannels (i.e. back-channel activity, Yngve, 1970), continuers (Schegloff, 1982), feedback and grunts, and attempts at formalizing their function and meaning have been made (e.g. Ward, 2004). We follow Ward and Tsukahara (2000), who argue that the term backchannel feed- back is relatively neutral, and henceforth use the term backchannel. The working definitions of these overlapping concepts, however, are im- precise, and different labeling schemes treat them quite differently, often with dubious inter-annotator agreement numbers as a result (e.g. Hardy et al., 2003). The schemes are also often complex. A typical complication occurs with the distinction between an answer of some type, say “I agree”, and a backchannel signaling understanding, say “mhm”. The distinction between the two relies heavily on third-party judgments of the speakers’ intentions, such as “was a response required or optional here?” or “was this acknowledgment unsolicited or prompted by a request?”. In some coding schemes, the distinction is based on lexical context. SWBD-DAMSL, for example, states that “yeah” belongs to the category AA (AGREEMENT-ACCEPT) if followed by additional verbal evidence, such as “me too”, while it is B...
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