Yeah, yeah yeah or yeah no that's right

a multifactorial analysis of the selection of backchannel structures in British English

Deanna Wong, Haidee Kruger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Backchannels are essential for successful interaction, but are difficult to identify and quantify due to their variable forms, and the fact that the most common forms tend to be multifunctional. This chapter applies a level of abstraction to the analysis of backchannels, and focuses on their structure rather than their form or function. In doing so, it seeks to establish the factors that condition backchannel selection in British English, using a multifactorial method. The research uses corpus annotation to identify backchannel structures, before using grammatical and speaker metadata as predictors of backchannel choice. The results indicate that British English speakers strongly prefer complex structures to less complex forms. However, a high-frequency form, yeah, shared across all structural categories, suggests that regardless of the complex variation found in backchannel forms, there are typical backchannel forms in British English. The multifactorial analysis demonstrates that the most common factor predicting a deviation from the preference for complex forms is the grammatical category of the first or only unit in the backchannel. This holds for both young and old speakers, speakers in close or wider relationships, and speakers from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCorpus approaches to contemporary British speech
Subtitle of host publicationsociolinguistic studies of the spoken BNC2014
EditorsVaclav Brezina, Robbie Love, Karin Aijmer
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9781315268323
ISBN (Print)9781138287273
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameRoutledge advances in corpus linguistics

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