The Challenge of Non-lexical Speech Sounds

Nigel Ward

International Conference on Spoken Language Processing, 2000

Abstract: Non-lexical speech sounds (conversational grunts), such as uh-huh, un-hn, mm, and oh, are common in English. In human dialogs these sounds are important in conversation control and for conveying attitudes. Spoken dialog systems may make use of these sounds to achieve concise, smooth, relaxed interactions. Doing so is, however, a challenge, because most algorithms used in spoken language processing were devised for words, but grunts are different from words both phonetically and semantically. For example, the phonetic inventory is different, superimposition of phonemes occurs, the set of conversational grunts is productive rather than finite, and the meanings are compositional and involve sound-symbolism.

Full Paper

See also Non-Lexical Conversational Sounds in American English. Nigel Ward. Pragmatics and Cognition, 14:1 (2006), 113-184.

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