Speech Prosody 2006

Dresden, Germany
May 2-5, 2006

Two Contours, Two Meanings: The Intonation of jaja in German Phone Conversations

Andrea Golato (1), Zsuzsanna Fagyal (2)

Departments of (1) Germanic Languages and Literatures and (2) French, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA

This paper shows that jaja ‘yes yes’ sequences in German conversations carry two distinct interactional meanings cued by their intonation and sequential placement. Combined Conversation Analytic (CA) and Intonation Phonological analyses indicate that jaja tokens uttered with H* L-% intonation (following GToBI) convey that the previous speaker has persisted too long in a specific course of (verbal) action which should therefore be stopped. By contrast, jaja tokens with L+H* L-% intonation are used in situations of fractured intersubjectivity, i.e., immediately after speakers misalign: with the jaja turn, its speaker treats the action/content of the previous speaker’s utterance as either unwarranted or self-evident. Speaking rate and regional dialectal differences notwithstanding, the two types of contour show significantly different peak alignment, and correspond to two distinct ‘peak accent’ nuclear contours.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Golato, Andrea / Fagyal, Zsuzsanna (2006): "Two contours, two meanings: the intonation of jaja in German phone conversations", In SP-2006, paper 228.