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The Prosody of Backchannels in American English

Benus, Stefan; Gravano, Agustin; Hirschberg, Julia Bell

We examine prosodic and contextual factors characterizing the backchannel function of single affirmative words. Data is drawn from
collaborative task-oriented dialogues between speakers of Standard American English. Despite high lexical variability, backchannels are
prosodically well defined: they have higher pitch and intensity and greater pitch slope than affirmative words expressing other pragmatic
functions. Additionally, we identify phrase-final rising pitch as a salient trigger for backchanneling.

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Computer Science
Published Here
May 1, 2013
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