Is there a linguistic term for this?
July 18, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Is there a term for, or linguistic function fulfilled by, the phrases "no yeah" and/or "yeah no" when used for the purpose of agreeing?
posted by CitrusFreak12 to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Good discussion of "yeah no" at Language Log.
posted by escabeche at 9:02 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Fastest gun in the west.

That's a gold mine, thanks!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:07 PM on July 18, 2012

Notice that Language Log links to a post by Metafilter's Own languagehat.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:29 PM on July 18, 2012

It reminds me a bit of the term doch in German.

According to one of the comments in the languagehat post, in German these kinds of words are known as Gesprächspartikel, which seems to correspond with the term "grammatical particle" in English. Particle is "a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition" and so that is probably one linguistic label you could safely give to "yeah no" . . .
posted by flug at 11:41 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Must be a California thing. I'm from the Midwest, and have lived in the South, and I have never heard of this.
posted by yclipse at 5:05 AM on July 19, 2012

I'm from the Midwest, currently on the east coast, and I hear this all the time and use it frequently myself.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:26 AM on July 19, 2012

Best answer: Several years ago I did a small undergrad term project on "yeah, no" as a discourse marker/hedge. I'm from California and it was/is a very popular framing device there. I live in England now and I hear it all the time, by speakers of varying age/class/gender/ethnicity/nationality backgrounds. And here's an older (2002) study of it in Australian English, which suggests that "yeah, no" was entrenched enough in Australian speech ten years ago to warrant the study of it as a (relatively) new, distinct phenomenon:
"Yeah-no in Australian English is a relatively new marker which serves a number of functions, including discourse cohesion, the pragmatic functions of hedging and face-saving, and assent and dissent. Drawing on a corpus of approximately 30 hours of both informal conversation and interviews, we analyse the interaction between intonation and turntaking, and the use of yeah-no by topic, conversational genre, and age and gender of speaker. The results indicate that the peak of yeah-no production occurs among speakers aged 35-49 years, and gender differences are not apparent in this preliminary analysis."
I'm willing to bet that there are several more recent studies on this. As for a direct answer to your question, I'm not sure that there's an exact term for "yeah, no" in that function. Yet.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:29 AM on July 19, 2012

Best answer: A more recent examination can be found on the Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog.
posted by shallowcenter at 6:05 AM on July 19, 2012

Best answer: Previously-ish
posted by litnerd at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2012

yclipse: "Must be a California thing. I'm from the Midwest, and have lived in the South, and I have never heard of this."

I definitely remember hearing Phoebe say it on Friends.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:11 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's even found in non-native speakers of English. Here's a clip of Michael Schumacher using it (0.05 secs in) - here
posted by Scottie_Bob at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2012

Cue Twilight Zone theme. I sai "no, yeah" and was wondering about it just today. Great question!
posted by cyndigo at 5:25 PM on July 19, 2012

« Older Teach a singer new tricks on the guitar   |   Miserable, meowing newly-indoor cats Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.