The prosody of negative ‘yeah’

Valerie Freeman, Richard Wright, Gina-Anne Levow


Normally, yeah has positive polarity, but with a change in prosody, it can convey a negative stance (e.g., polite disagreement/rejection). This study examines acoustic-prosodic features of ‘negative yeahs’ in a stance-rich corpus of collaborative tasks. Four categories are identified based on degree of agreement/acceptance and distinguished by an interaction between pitch and intensity: while two groups have low, flat pitch, and two have high domed or dipping contours, this division is cross-cut by intensity, again low-flat vs. high domed. These patterns show that fine-grained stance analysis can reveal word-level acoustic patterns that are not apparent in coarser approaches.  

Full Text:



Biber, Douglas, Johansson, Stig, Leech, Geoffrey, Conrad, Susan & Finegan, Edward. 1999. Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Longman.

Boersma, Paul &Weenink, David. 2013. Praat: doing phonetics by computer, version 5.3.

Davidson, Lisa. 2006. Comparing tongue shapes from ultrasound imaging using smoothing spline analysis of variance. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) 120. 407-415.

Freeman, Valerie. 2014. Hyperarticulation as a signal of stance. Journal of Phonetics 45. 1-11.

Freeman, Valerie, Chan, Julian, Levow, Gina-Anne, Wright, Richard, Ostendorf, Mari & Zayats, Victoria. 2014. Manipulating stance and involvement using collaborative tasks: An exploratory comparison. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (INTERSPEECH). Singapore, Sept. 14-18.

Freeman, Valerie, Levow, Gina-Anne & Wright, Richard. 2014. Phonetic marking of stance in a collaborative-task spontaneous-speech corpus. 167th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Providence, May 5-9.

Haddington, Pentti. 2004. Stance taking in news interviews. SKY Journal of Linguistics 17. 101-14.

Levow, Gina-Anne, Freeman, Valerie, Hrynkevich, Alena, Ostendorf, Mari, Wright, Richard, Chan, Julian & Tran, Trang. 2014. Recognition of stance strength and polarity in spontaneous speech. Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE Spoken Language Technology Workshop (SLT ). South Lake Tahoe, Dec. 7-10.

Morgan, Nelson, Baron, Don, Edwards, Jane, Ellis, Dan, Gelbart, David, Janin, Adam, Pfau, Thilo, Shriberg, Elizabeth & Stolcke, Andreas. 2001. The meeting project at ICSI. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Human Language Technology Research (HLT). Stroudsburg, PA: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Yuan, Jiahong & Liberman, Mark. 2008. Speaker identification on the SCOTUS corpus. Proceedings of Acoustics ‘08. Paris, June 29-July 4.