When phonation matters: The use and function of yeah and creaky voice

Chad Douglas Nilep
Nagoya University
This paper illuminates the conversational functions of the combination of creaky voice quality and the response token yeah. Jefferson described yeah as an acknowledgement token that also projects “a preparedness to shift from recipiency to speakership”. This speaker incipiency is not consistent, though. While yeah is sometimes used to indicate a shift from recipient to speaker, it is sometimes used simply as an acknowledgement token. This difference in function of apparently similar items may be related to token shape. This paper examines several telephone interactions and finds the use of yeah with creaky voice to indicate passive recipiency and either a dispreference to continue the current topic, or a disalignment with the primary speaker. This analysis contributes to the study of phonetics in interactional linguistics. In addition, it supports the notion that token-shape distinctions can account for functional differences within token types. It suggests that phonation or other behavior below the word level may be significant in verbal interaction.
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