Unimodal and Bimodal Backchannels in Conversational English

Gaelle Ferre, Suzanne Renaudier


This paper presents the differences in use of verbal (yeah, (mh)mh, okay . . . ) and visual backchannels (head nods, shakes, tilts), e.g. unimodal backchannels, as well as bimodal backchannels that combine a verbal token and a head movement in conversational English. We analyze the participants’ gaze-pattern not only before the production of a BC but also during and immediately after its delivery. We also analyze their placement regarding the main speaker’s turn and within the discourse topic. Lastly, we discuss their functions. Our findings reveal that each type of BC shows a different picture from the other two both in terms of where they occur within the main speaker’s turn and what their functions are. We however do not confirm previous observations regarding the constraints on their occurrence within a discourse topic.


 DOI: 10.21437/SemDial.2017-3

Cite as: Ferre, G., Renaudier, S. (2017) Unimodal and Bimodal Backchannels in Conversational English. Proc. SEMDIAL 2017 (SaarDial) Workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue, 20-30, DOI: 10.21437/SemDial.2017-3.


@inproceedings{Ferre2017,
  author={Gaelle Ferre and Suzanne Renaudier},
  title={Unimodal and Bimodal Backchannels in Conversational English},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. SEMDIAL 2017 (SaarDial) Workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue},
  pages={20--30},
  doi={10.21437/SemDial.2017-3},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SemDial.2017-3}
}