International audienceThis paper reports a perceptual evaluation of the meanings conveyed by the acousticcomponents of “nasal grunts” (Chlébowski and Ballier 2015), i.e., non-lexicalconversational sounds realised with a nasal feature (e.g. <ehm>, <uhhuh>, <mmhm>).This study follows the experimental investigation conducted by Chlébowski and Ballier(2015) on the acoustic components of such sounds in the PVC project (Milroy et al. 1997),which is part of the NECTE corpus (Allen et al. 2007). In accordance with current claimsin the literature, they ascribed meanings to these acoustic features, e.g. fall-rises expressthat the “speaker implies something” (Wells 2006: 27), and verified their validity throughan analysis of the context surrounding the “nasal grunts”. Nonetheless, to avoid problemsof circularity and ad hoc categories, the present study includes a perceptual evaluation byfour participants. To verify the meanings ascribed to the features of “nasal grunts”, threenative speakers of American English were recorded in short casual conversations and threeperception tests were created using these recordings, with Praat software (Boersma andWeenink 2009). The first two tests aim to check whether different acoustic features: 1) areperceived as different when presented in pairs; 2) can be identified by the participants (asfalls or rises) in isolation. The last test aim to determine whether each feature bears thesame meaning: 1) in isolation, 2) in a given context, or 3) in scripted conversations likelyto trigger the meanings ascribed by Chlébowski and Ballier (2015). Results suggest thatacoustic components of “nasal grunts” in Geordie English do convey specific attitudinalmeanings, and raise the possibility of a perceptual hierarchy of those components
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