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Repeated head movements, their function and relation to speech

By Max Boholm and Jens Allwood


This paper presents a study of multimodal communication in spontaneous “getting to know each other conversations”. The study focuses on repeated head movements (head-nods and head-shakes) and the speech co-occurring with them. The main function of such repeated head movements is found to be communicative feedback. This is also the most frequent function of the speech co-occurring with the head movements. However, there is mostly no 1-1 relation between repetition in head movement and vocal words. Repeated head movements are more often accompanied by single than repeated words. Both repeated head movements and repeated vocal words can also occur without accompaniment in the other modality. In such cases, the most frequent function for the head movements is still communicative feedback. However, the most frequent function of repeated words without accompaniment in the other modality is own communication management. Frequent functions of repeated head movements, besides feedback, are emphasis, self-reflection, citation, self-reinforcement and own communication management. Other findings in the study are that affirmative repeated head nods mostly start with an upward movement and involve two repetitions. 1

Year: 2010
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