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Nordic Prosody

Proceedings of the Xth Conference, Helsinki 2008

Edited By Martti Vainio, Reijo Aulanko and Olli Aaltonen

This volume contains the revised texts of talks and posters given at the Nordic Prosody X conference, held at the University of Helsinki, in August 2008. The contributions by Scandinavian and other researchers cover a wide range of prosody-related topics from various theoretical and methodological points of view. Although the history of the conference series is Nordic and Scandinavian, the current volume presents studies that are of mainly Baltic origin in the sense that of the eight languages presented in the proceedings only English is not natively spoken around the Baltic Sea. Research issues addressed in the 25 articles include various aspects of speech prosody, their regional variation within and across languages as well as social and idiolectal variation. Speech technology and modelling of prosody are also addressed in more than one article.


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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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