Advertisement

How Long Does it Take to Say ‘Well’? Evidence from the Audio BNC

  • Christoph RühlemannEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

This paper reports on an acoustic analysis of ‘well’ in conversation, building on recent attempts at examining the vocal realization of the marker (e.g., Aijmer in Understanding pragmatic markers. A variational pragmatic approach. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2013; Romero-Trillo in Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 2018). ‘Well’ is a prime example of a highly multi-functional item performing a large number of distinct pragmatic and syntactic functions. The aim of the study is to test what I call, following Hoey (Lexical priming. A new theory of words and language. Routledge, London/New York, 2005), the ‘priming hypothesis’ suggesting that the syntactic and the pragmatic functions of ‘well’ are distinguishable on acoustic grounds, specifically by the duration they have in conversational speaking turns. The data examined include a subset of 9-word turns extracted from the Audio BNC (Coleman et al. in Audio BNC: the audio edition of the Spoken British National Corpus. Phonetics Laboratory, University of Oxford, Oxford, 2012) of which the durations of more than 300 tokens of ‘well’ were measured in Praat, an acoustic analysis software (Boersma and Weenink in Praat: doing phonetics by computer [Computer program], http://www.praat.org/, 2012). The results mostly confirm the priming hypothesis: syntactic ‘well’ has significantly longer duration than pragmatic ‘well’. In the concluding sections I discuss this result with a view to the larger question as to how discourse duration enters into the range of factors, including not only duration but also collocation and position in the turn, that hearers in conversation draw on in order to disambiguate the distinct uses of ‘well’. The study also offers intriguing implications for the theory of priming (Hoey in Lexical priming. A new theory of words and language. Routledge, London/New York, 2005), suggesting the possibility that polysemous words are not only primed for certain verbal contexts but also for certain properties pertaining to the non-verbal modalities.

Keywords

Pragmatic markers Well Duration Praat Disambiguation 

Notes

Companies with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author states that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Aijmer, K. (2013). Understanding pragmatic markers. A variational pragmatic approach. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Albert, S., de Ruiter, L. E., & de Ruiter, J. P. (2015). CABNC: The Jeffersonian transcription of the Spoken British National Corpus. https://saulalbert.github.io/CABNC/. Accessed Sept 2018.
  3. Arndt, H., & Janney, R. W. (1987). InterGrammar. Towards an integrative model of verbal, prosodic and kinesic choices in speech. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baayen, H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barthel, M., Meyer, A. S., & Levinson, S. C. (2017). Next speakers plan their turn early and speak after turn-final “go-signals”. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 393.  https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2012). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer [Computer program]. http://www.praat.org/. Accessed Sept 2018.
  7. Bögels, S., & Torreira, F. (2015). Listeners use intonational phrase boundaries to project turn ends in spoken interaction. Journal of Phonetics, 52, 46–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brinton, L. J. (2010). Discourse markers. In A. H. Jucker & I. Taavitsainen (Eds.), Historical Pragmatics (handbooks of pragmatics) (Vol. 8, pp. 285–314). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
  9. Coleman, J., Baghai-Ravary, L., Pybus, J., & Grau, S. (2012). Audio BNC: The audio edition of the Spoken British National Corpus. Oxford: Phonetics Laboratory, University of Oxford. http://www.phon.ox.ac.uk/AudioBNC. Accessed Sept 2018.
  10. Crawley, M. J. (2007). The R book. Chichester: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crowdy, S. (1994). Spoken corpus transcription. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 9(1), 25–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Klerk, V. (2005). Procedural meanings of well in a corpus of Xhosa English. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1183–1205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fraser, B. (1990). An approach to discourse markers. Journal of Pragmatics, 14, 383–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goffman, E. (1981). Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.Google Scholar
  15. Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. (1992). Assessments and the construction of context. In A. Duranti (Ed.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gravano, A., Hirschberg, J., & Beňuš, S. (2012). Affirmative cue words in task-oriented dialogue. Computational Linguistics, 38(1), 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gries, S Th. (2017). Quantitative corpus linguistics with R. A practical introduction (2nd ed.). New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Gussenhoven, C., & Rietveld, T. (1992). Intonation contours, prosodic structure and preboundary lengthening. Journal of Phonetics, 20, 283–303.Google Scholar
  19. Heldner, M. (2011). Detection thresholds for gaps, overlaps, and no-gap-no-overlaps. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130(1), 508–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heldner, M., & Edlund, J. (2010). Pauses, gaps and overlaps in conversations. Journal of Phonetics, 38, 555–568.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2010.08.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hepburn, A., & Bolden, G. (2017). Transcribing for social research. Los Angeles: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heritage, J. (2013). Turn-initial position and some of its occupants. Journal of Pragmatics, 57, 331–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heritage, J. (2015). Well-prefaced turns in English conversation: A conversation analytic perspective. Journal of Pragmatics, 88, 88–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hoey, M. (2005). Lexical priming. A new theory of words and language. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Jucker, A. H. (1993). The discourse marker well: A relevance-theoretical account. Journal of Pragmatics, 19(5), 435–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Levinson, S. C. (2004). Deixis. In L. R. Horn & G. Ward (Eds.), The handbook of pragmatics (pp. 97–121). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  28. Levinson, S. C. (2013). Action formation and ascription. In Jack Sidnell & Tanya Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 103–130). Malden/MA and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  29. Levinson, S. C. (2016). Turn-taking in human communication—Origins and implications for language processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1), 6–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2014). The origin of human multi-modal communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 369, 20130302.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Levinson, S. C., & Torreira, F. (2015). Timing in turn-taking and its implications for processing models of language. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 731.  https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liddicoat, A. J. (2007). An introduction to conversation analysis. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  33. Pomerantz, A. M. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57–60). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Pomerantz, A., & Heritage, J. (2013). Preference. In Jack Sidnell & Tanya Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 210–228). Malden/MA and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  36. Rayson, P., Leech, G., & Hodges, M. (1997). Social differentiation in the use of English vocabulary: Some analyses of the conversational component of the British National Corpus. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 2(1), 133–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Renwick, M. E. L., Baghai-Ravary, L., Temple, R., & Coleman, J. S. (2013). Assimilation of word-final nasals to following word-initial place of articulation in UK English, INTERSPEECH-2013, 3047–3051. http://www.isca-speech.org/archive/archive_papers/interspeech_2013/i13_3047.pdf. Accessed Sept 2018.
  38. Romero-Trillo, J. (2002). The pragmatic fossilization of discourse markers in non-native speakers of English. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 769–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Romero-Trillo, J. (2018). Prosodic modeling and position analysis of pragmatic markers in English conversation. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 14, 169–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rühlemann, C. (2007). Conversation in context: A corpus-driven approach. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  41. Rühlemann, C. (2013). Narrative in English conversation: A corpus analysis of storytelling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rühlemann, C., Bagoutdinov, A., & O’Donnell, M. B. (2015). Modest XPath and XQuery for corpora: Exploiting deep XML annotation. ICAME Journal, 39, 47–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rühlemann, C., & Gee, M. (2017). Conversation analysis and the XML method. Gesprächsforschung, 18, 274–296.Google Scholar
  44. Rühlemann, C., & Hilpert, M. (2017). Colloquialization in journalistic writing: Investigating inserts in TIME magazine with a focus on well’. Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 18(1), 102–135.  https://doi.org/10.1075/jhp.18.1.05ruh.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rühlemann, C., & O’Donnell, M. B. (2012). Introducing a corpus of conversational narratives. Construction and annotation of the Narrative Corpus. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 8(2), 313–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation (Vols. I and II). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Schegloff, E. A. (1988). Presequences and indirection. Journal of Pragmatics, 12, 55–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schegloff, E. A., & Lerner, G. H. (2009). Beginning to respond: Well-prefaced responses to wh-questions. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 42(2), 91–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schiffrin, D. (1985). Conversational coherence: the role of well. Language, 61, 640–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stein, D. (1985). Discourse markers in Early Modern English. In R. Eatono, F. W. Koopman, & F. van der Leek (Eds.), Papers from the 4th international conference on English historical linguistics (pp. 283–303). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  53. Turk, A., & Shattuck-Hufnagel, S. (2007). Multiple targets of phrase-final lengthening in American English words. Journal of Phonetics, 35, 445–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wennerstrom, A. (2001). The music of everyday speech. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Phiilipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany

Personalised recommendations