The vocal intensity of turn-initial cue phrases in dialogue

Anna Hjalmarsson
Department of Speech Music and Hearing, KTH


The present study explores the vocal intensity of turn-initial cue phrases and filled pauses in a corpus of human-human dialogues in Swedish. Both cue phrases and filled pauses convey relatively little propositional content, but both have several important pragmatic functions. The majority of these entities are frequently occurring one-syllable words such as “eh”, “mm”, “ja”; items that are not typically associated with prosodic stress in conversation. Yet, the results show that these words are produced with higher intensity than other turn-initial words are. In light of these results, we suggest that speakers produce these expressions with high intensity in order to claim the floor. We also show that the difference in intensity can be measured as a dynamic inter-speaker relation over the course of a dialogue using the end of the interlocutor’s previous turn as a reference point.