Responses within activities: Alignment via Egyptian Arabic ʔāh (‘yeah’) in Extended Turns

Michal Marmorstein, Nadav Matalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large conversational activities (e.g., storytelling) necessitate a suspension of ordinary turn-taking rules. In the resulting constellation of main speaker and recipient, minimal displays of cooperative recipiency become relevant at particular junctures. We investigate this mechanism by focusing on the Egyptian Arabic particle ʔāh ‘yeah’ when thus used. We observe that tokens of ʔāh are mobilized by main speakers via the opening of prosodic slots at local pragmatic completion points. The prosodic design of the particle at these points is sensitive to prior talk and displays recipients’ alignment at the structural, action-sequential, and relational levels. This is done through variation of three prosodic features, namely, rhythm-based timing, pitch configuration, and prominence. The measure of alignment proposed by ʔāh is implicative for the continuation of the turn. While smooth progression suggests that ʔāh is understood to be sufficiently fitted and aligned, expansions are traceable to a departure from the terms set by prior talk, which can be heard to indicate lesser alignment. We propose to view ʔāh response tokens as a subset of positionally sensitive responses to part-of-activity actions that are crucial for the co-accomplishment of a large activity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInteractional Linguistics
StatePublished - 13 Dec 2021


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