Functional motivations for the sound patterns of English non-lexical Interjections

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Non-lexical interjections have been the focus of much research, but their apparent complexities, functional variations, and lack of content have led to different approaches to annotation and classification. This paper argues that they are discourse particles that function with strong cognitive linguistic bases and regularities in communication. They may have appeared as so complexly varied because they were assumed to be paralinguistic phenomena. We investigate our claims on two spontaneous speech corpora of English. In classifying these interjections into a taxonomy of discourse functions and using methods based on Phonology as Human Behavior, we find an interaction between the sound pattern of an interjection and its function in discourse, supporting our claim that non-lexical interjections are important linguistic phenomena.


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