Yep and nope

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Everybody acquainted with colloquial English knows that Yes has alternations in pronunciation: it may lose its final [s] and add a centralizing offglide to become Yeah, and it may pick up an alternative final consonant, an unreleased [p] (simulating the sudden closure of the lips at the end of the utterance), to make Yep. No also gets a final unreleased [p] sometimes, hence the spelling Nope (notice that in each case there is a conventional spelling of the [p]-final pronunciation for use when direct reporting speech, e.g. in novels). But my colleague Heinz Giegerich just pointed out to me a surprising constraint on the final-[p] pronunciations: for a long time those pronunciations have been current only as single word utterances.

In particular, he noted (on receiving an email from a Chinese student who agreed to a meeting by writing "Oh, yep", and noticing that it seemed odd) that the [p]-final pronunciations don't seem to occur when preceded by the interjection oh.

Now, a hundred commenters are going to waste their time and yours by pointing out below (without even reading as far as this) that they have heard Oh, yep, so I'm wrong. I can't do anything about them; but for you, who have continued reading into the third paragraph, let me make it very clear that of course I agree the constraint is not absolute. Naturally in a case of casual speech like this you get plenty of individual variation. But even raw Google hit counts are pretty convincing evidence that Heinz is right on the level of unusualness. It is true that you can find about 160 thousand Google hits on the web for oh yep. But the point is that you can find about 24 million for oh yeah, and about 60 million for oh yes. You can also find about 60 thousand Google hits on the web for oh nope; but you can find about 24 million for oh no. These are really substantial differences — three orders of magnitude. I suspect that they are bigger than can be accounted for by the observation that yep and nope are found only in direct reported speech while yes and no occur in purely written English.

One small additional experiment confirms this. The Wall Street Journal corpus of 1987-89 newspaper prose, beloved of computational linguists because it offers 44 million words of easily searchable and freely available raw text for experimenting on, contains 4 cases of people quoted as saying "Yep" and 11 of "Nope" (note the capital letters there), but none at all of yep or nope. Which means that there are zero occurrences of oh yep and oh nope (though there are 24 of "Oh, yes" or "Oh, yeah", and 15 of "Oh, no").

Just to forestall one distraction, let me note that a conversational turn may consist of of the one-word utterance "Yep" followed by another independent clause, of course: we find "Yep, except for the fish" in the WSJ corpus. But that's really two utterances, phonologically and syntactically (the second is expanding on the first, so it's like I completely avoid alcohol. Except at weekends). Yep and nope are always the first word in their sentence, and I think they have to be regarded also as the only word in their sentence (certainly the only word in their phonological phrase).

There's more: in the Google results there are clear signs that oh yep and oh nope are special in that they have a sociolinguistic signalling status: the hits for them are all slang-peppered teen blogs, Facebook pages (there is a special one just for oh nope!), rap lyrics, and so forth. These are not just alternates for oh yes and oh no; they are slangy signals for membership in what we could call (in an allusion to my embarrassing overestimate of the recency of the latest semantic value of the word random) the rando generation.

Heinz Giegerich had noticed (without noticing that he had noticed), from his tacit grasp of the statistical structure of the set of all spoken utterances he had heard since he learned English a few decades ago, that he had been hearing Yep and Nope his whole English-speaking life, but he had not been hearing Oh, yep! or Oh, nope!. He was right.

It's not that the language couldn't develop in a way that would increase their frequency; it has now started to. But it was just that for a long time it hadn't. And I, for one, hadn't noticed that, but now that he points it out, I realize I agree with him. Yep and Nope appear to have evolved as one-word utterances, and originally (it seems) they hardly ever occurred in longer utterances featuring utterance-final occurrences of the words yes and no. And that seems quite surprising to me.

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73 Comments »

  1. Mark P said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    "Oh, yep" sounds quite odd to me. In my experience yep and nope virtually never occur after oh. In fact, it seems to me that they occur almost always in a one-word response. But what struck me is the use of yep in a written communication. Yep and nope seem to me to occur almost exclusively in very informal, spoken conversation.

  2. Lauren said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    Slightly tangentially, the word "well'p" (with the same 'p' from sudden lip closure) (with various spellings, e.g.: whelp, welp, wellp) has been appearing more and more frequently in my twitter feed and other colloquial forms of written language I encounter. It is interesting that 'yep' and 'nope' both have standardized spellings, but other utterance-initial expletives (e.g.: well, so) don't. I have certainly heard "well'p" and I feel like it's likely that I've heard "so'p"… so why are "yes" and "no" privileged with the additional orthographic form?

  3. MattF said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    This all suggests that 'Yep' and 'Nope' are actually assertions– maybe, in a conversational context, something like "As a matter of fact, yes, I (assent to)/(agree with) what you just said."

  4. jfruh said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    I definitely agree that using the words to do anything other than stand alone is non-idiomatic. I've seen the phrase "turns out nope!" used for humorous effect, but it's funny precisely because it's nonstandard.

    There's something about the "p" sound that makes the word seem very "final" to me, not encouraging more words after it, but I suppose a good linguist would say that there's no real relation between the sounds of words and how they're used…

  5. Thomas said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    A tangential point, but one thing that struck me, after learning German in South Germany, was how close the casual yes is in that dialect (Bavarian, Austrian) to the casual yes in parts of the Southeastern US. In their native approximative spellings, I'd write them: Joo and yup. Rendering South German in English and vice versa: yoh and Joo(p).

  6. Mary said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    When I say "Oh, yeah!" I most often mean 'NOW I remember' and when I say "Oh, yeah?" I mean 'Are you really daring to say that to me?' whereas "yep" means 'affirmative.' When I say "Oh, no" I mean 'Let xyz not be true' and when I say "nope," I mean 'negative' (as Mr. Spock would say). As I never heard "oh, yep" and "oh, nope" before, I wonder which shade(s) of meaning each has.

  7. Josh Treleaven said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    This might be just my accent (Victoria, British Columbia): in informal speech I say ye' (with a glottal stop) for "yes", and this has actually been problematic for me because listeners think I'm saying "yet" with a glottal stop.

    Example:

    Friend: I really envy people who can play the guitar. I never learned how.

    Me: Ye'

    Friend: You're right. I suppose it's never too late to learn.

  8. Daniel Silliman said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    Glad I read past the third paragraph … if for nothing else than for the sentence, "Yep, except for the fish."


    [For your additional pleasure, I append the full passage with the context:


    He's got a shiny-red Skeeter fishing boat with a 150-horsepower Evinrude motor on the back. That baby can skim the water at 65 mph, fast enough to flatten your lips against your teeth, and he gets paid to use it. Same goes for his rods, reels and other gear.

    Great job, huh Ken? "Yep, except for the fish. Just when you think you've found 'em, they move."


    —GKP]

  9. Keri said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:40 am

    LOL @Daniel Silliman.

  10. Ellen K. said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:43 am

    Nope in writing, where the writing is speech-like language, doesn't seem unusual for me. Yup/yep seems odder. (I'd spell it yup.)

    My sense is that these are unstressed (or something like that, maybe there's a better term) variants. I can't use them for a single word utterance where there's a lot of emphasis, nor when yelling/shouting. And the same thing applies after "oh", I think.

    Actually, thinking about it more, these words have shorter vowels than yes and no, and wouldn't be used where a long vowel is wanted (which would include shouting, and emphatic use), and I think that after "oh" somehow those short vowel variants don't work. (And by short and long I do mean actual vowel length, rather than how those words get misused with English language vowels.)

  11. Leonardo Boiko said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    I’m not even a native speaker and “Oh, yep” sounds odd to me.

  12. Army1987 said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    Ditto as Boiko. I had never explicitly known such a rule, but nevertheless I've never used "nope" except in isolation.

  13. pjharvey said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    The change to a 'p' at the end of the word makes it sound 'closed', like adding an automatic full stop to the word. I never really noticed it myself, but it does seem that 'yep' and 'nope' are almost always unaccompanied.

    I also find that I tend to use the words as a less formal answer, giving less stress to either positive or negative connotations and simply showing some form of agreement. So it's just a one-word answer, giving clear information without adding bias.

  14. Mike M said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    It seems to be that 'oh X' phrases are more like set phrases than a construction that can take different words. 'Yes', 'yeah' and 'yep' mean the same thing, but 'oh yes' and 'oh yeah' don't. For example:

    A: 'You didn't earn that grade.'
    B: 'Oh yes I did.' / *'Oh yeah I did'.

    'Oh yeah' is a marker of surprise or sudden remembrance, whereas 'oh yes' is more a marker of emphatic contradiction. ('Oh yes' works in the former sense, 'oh yes, i forgot', but that strikes me as an attempt to assume a formal tone and less prevalent.). I don't think we'd expect 'oh yep' to crop up unless there was a new and separate meaning for it. (Similarly, 'nah' is a colloquial variant of 'no', but *'oh nah' would be really weird.

  15. MonaL said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    Midwestern 20-something AmE speaker here (incidentally, I'd also spell it — and say it — Yup) and it doesn't suprise me to see yep/yup in informal written communication, although the "oh yep" construction seems unusual.
    As MattF said, these variants seem to act as assertions in a way that yes and no don't (or don't always). This might be linked to jfruh's point that the "p" ending makes them sound very final. Unlike yeah or nah/naw, which can denote a fair amount of uncertainty to me, yup and nope are intransigent. Which is why it seems odd for it to be modulated by the preceding 'oh.'

  16. sam said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:10 am

    MY underinformed suggestion is that "yep" (/"yup") and "nope" are coming into their own as full-fledged responses (capable of being employed like "yeah," "nah," &c.), rather than being regarded (as in older speakers) as almost "allophonic" variations of "yes" and "no" (occurring almost always as curt, solitary utterances).

    Slightly off-topic, but my favorite var of this whole thing has to be in the cartoon Archer, when one of the characters uses an over-emphasized "YUP!" to mean "yes, and I'm not changing my mind, period." It's a very satisfying thing to hear/repeat to your friends.

  17. Paul said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    I'm reading a paper at the moment (Shriberg 2001 'To errr is human: ecology and acoustics of speech disfluencies' Journal of the International Phonetic Association 31/1) which includes this paragraph:

    An additional result, not shown in the table, is that there appears to be an overall tendency for speakers to produce bilabial closures when hesitating. This can be seen for words that do not end in bilabials (the determination is confounded otherwise), if one looks at rates of observed cases, after adjusting for the rate of cases generously construed as explainable due to a following word with a bilabial onset. We used word trigram sequence probabilities from a statistical language model, and compared observed bilabial transitions to the probability of such transitions given the word history. The language model was trained on about three million words of Switchboard data. Results showed that bilabial gestures were observed significantly more often than predicted by the language model, across different word history contexts. The cause of this behavior is not clear, but perhaps it reflects a tendency to cut off the gesture by closing the lips. It is interesting in this regard that um also ends with a bilabial nasal in English and in many other languages with a corresponding filler token. It has been suggested (John Local, personal communication) that the phenomenon might be related to forms like yep, nope and welp, where the bilabial is proposed to serve a closing off function (Heritage & Greatbach 1991, Raymond 2000).

  18. Pflaumbaum said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    I've been wanting to ask this for a while and this post seems like the most relevant.

    That other ubiquitous word (?) for 'yes', mm-hmm, seems phonotactically very unusual in English – sandwiching /h/ in the middle of syllabic [m̩]. And there's at least one other example of a more or less non-native sound, this time appearing in an exclamation: [x] in the euch! of disgust. How common is this sort of thing cross-linguistically? Are there any theories about why it happens?

  19. Mark P said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:31 am

    The word "yep" or "yup" invariably makes me think of Gary Cooper (back when I was a kid, there were a lot of Westerns on TV and not much else a kid would watch), and so I tend to think of that word as iconically laconic. When I say it, Gary Cooper's image appears in my head. It's the shortest possible response a cowboy could make, it always occurs by itself, and it's always separated from the rest of the conversation by a period of silence. And it tends to end the conversation.

  20. Robin said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    This also makes sense in the context of the recent revelations about Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) responding to e-mail questions about iProducts–he seems to generally answer only "Yep" or "Nope" and part of the message appears to be (or is at least perceived to be) the finality of a single word answer. These answers are also taken as evidence that he is the actual responder (because the answers are only a word).

  21. Colin Reid said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:40 am

    @Lauren: Could 'p' be taking on a life of its own as a kind of particle?

    For me the 'p' carries a sense of finality and belief that the situation is not likely to change, whereas 'oh yes' and 'oh no' express some kind of surprise, emphasis or intent; these connotations don't really fit together. So I'd interpret 'oh,yep' as two separate statements: "Oh, that's what you meant. In that case yes (and we don't have to discuss it further)."

    On the other hand 'oh welp' would certainly make sense as a single , the 'p' emphasising the resignation in 'oh well'. I've never heard 'so'p', but I suppose it would mean 'let us conclude our business'.

  22. GeorgeW said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    @Pflaumbaum: In Egyptian Arabic, a glottal stop is added to the Standard Arabic /la/ (no) > /la'/, and it is only used like the English single word 'no' or 'nope.' It isn't used as a verb negator like in Standard.

    However, 'yes' is either the standard na'am or non-standard aiwa. Neither end with a stop.

    But then there is the EA equivalent of 'yuk' (with a stop) /ekh! (also with a stop).

    Maybe there is something emphatic about final stops.

  23. GeorgeW said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    Whoops! I said above, "But then there is the EA equivalent of 'yuk' (with a stop) /ekh! (also with a stop)."

    Wrong! /ekh/ ends with the fricative /x/.

  24. Faldone said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:05 am

    Then there's always "yepper!", with a slightly greater emphasis on the "per" than on the "yep" but I don't suppose it disproves anything.

  25. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:09 am

    I don't know that this is relevant to the constraint on preceding words, but it seems to me that at least it some cases "yep" and "nope" actually end with a glottal stop rather than a /p/. In my pronunciation, the /p/ is almost always preglottalized anyway, but I also notice that there are many instances where the labial closure is quite delayed, making me wonder if those instances should better be transcribed as jeʔ/noʔ, with the labial closure almost extra-linguistic. I'm wondering if this could be the origin of yep/nope, since those final p's have always seemed strange to me from a historical point of view.

  26. richard said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    @Mark on Gary Cooper, or at least movies, yeppers! My grandmother (born and bred in the tony parts of Philadelphia and Manhattan in the 1910s and 20s), was always amused when I said "yep," and would invariably repeat it to me with a laugh. I eventually ran across a movie, a comedy involving misunderstanding between New Yorkers (city) and Upstate New Yorkers (country) encapsulated by the word "yep." When the city folk ask questions of the country folk, the only answers are "yep" and "nope;" ultimately the tables are turned and the country folk need information from the city folk, and of course the city folk gleefully respond with "yep" and "nope." I suppose some of my grandmother's enjoyment of the phrase was rooted in its social transgression–ladies of her upbringing were supposed to speak in full sentences and well rounded tones.

  27. Amy Stoller said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    I've tried to analyze my own utterances (always a dicey operation), and have come to the conclusion that I add glottal reinforcement to the p sound at the ends of Nope, Yep, and Yup (I say both of the last two, and pronounce the vowels differently, though I mean the same thing by them). But I don't experience this as a lag between the glottal stop and the p.

    Yeppers is not part of my personal lexicon. And I, too, have long wondered how the ending-in-p variants originated.

  28. Pflaumbaum said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    @George W

    But the glottal stop and velar/uvular fricative are normal phonemes in that position in Arabic, aren't they?

    What I'm talking about is a non-native sound or cluster being used very commonly in the labnguage, as in hmm and especially mm-hmm.

    Euch! is maybe a bit different as it is rare and possibly onomatopoeic, as are other unusual sounds/clusters like brrr! and boing!. But I use (mm-)hmm every day, yet never otherwise use that cluster as far as I'm aware.

  29. Ellen K. said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    @Pflaumbaum That other ubiquitous word (?) for 'yes', mm-hmm, seems phonotactically very unusual in English – sandwiching /h/ in the middle of syllabic [m̩].

    It's not an h in the middle, though. The mouth never opens. Definitely interesting, though. There's also the negative version, which I've no clue how to spell, but also two syllables, with the mouth remaining closed.

  30. Pflaumbaum said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:52 am

    @Amy –

    I was going to post the same thing – my /p/ is also glottalic in yep and nope. It seems to add to its connotation of finality.

  31. Pflaumbaum said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    @ Ellen K. – you're right. What is that 'h' then, a kind of nareal fricative?

    By the negative version I assume you mean the one that's often spelt uh-uh but is more like ['ʔm̩.ʔm̩]

  32. Nijma said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    Um, it's "yup".
    Perhaps "yep" is the non-rhotic version? :)

  33. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    @Ellen K.: Is the sound in the middle of mm-hm a voiceless m?

    I'd be tempted to spell the negative version 'M-'m or 'M'm or something, to emphasize the glottal stops.

  34. Nijma said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    In Egyptian Arabic, a glottal stop is added to the Standard Arabic /la/ (no) > /la'/, and it is only used like the English single word 'no' or 'nope.'

    In Levantine Arabic you can add one glottal stop for, I suppose emphasis or laconic effect (la' –one syllable), or two glottal stops for a more slang or flirtatious effect (la'a' –two syllables). To be really flirtatious, end the word with a tongue click tsk! and tilt the nose upward about two inches at the same time. Looks like nodding "yes" to us, but head nodding there means "no". For a "don't bother me" kind of no, a low tsk! by itself and an almost imperceptible upward head movement will do.

  35. Dan Lufkin said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

    Are we going to let Maine's 'ay:u pass unremarked? Always pronounced with initial glottal stop and falling high-to-mid pitch pattern.

  36. Ray Girvan said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    Another tangential observation: the French casual ouais, that's porbably equivalent to "yeah" or "yep" (as in the Fast Show French art film spoof).

  37. Ellie said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

    My old Mainer grampy used the phrase, "Ah, yap!" – with the actual pronunciation somewhere between that and "uh, yup."

  38. GeorgeW said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    Nijma: It is my observation that the more emphatic the Egyptian 'no,' the more the emphasis (maybe gemination) of the final glottal stop – /la"/ (hell no) vs /la'/ (no).

    I don't feel sense this emphatic no with the English 'nope.' And, I have never heard or said, "hell nope!"

    Likewise, we don't double 'nope' for emphasis. We can say, " no no" but not "nope nope."

  39. Mr Punch said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    I'm with MonaL, though I'm much older and from further east.

  40. Dan Velleman said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

    I'm noticing that the multiword phrases I can think of that end in "yeah" or "no" all convey heightened emotion. "Oh yeah/no," "hell yeah/no," "fuck yeah/no," etcetera. (The exceptions have pauses in them. So, yeah, you can say a sentence like this one in a detatched way. But if "Yeah, except for the fish" counts as two utterances, then "So, yeah, except for the fish" surely counts as three.)

    I'm also noticing that adding the glottalized-p-and-pause thing after a discourse particle conveys the opposite: something like casual detatchment. Like Lauren, I've got "well'p" and "so'p" as well as "yep" and "nope." I'm pretty sure I can say "oh'p" too, meaning more or less "I acknowledge what you've said, but I'm not thrilled about it." They all strike me as suitable for saying while shrugging, and totally unsuitable for saying while pounding your fist on a podium — whereas "oh/hell/fuck yeah/no" are fine for podium-pounding and totally unsuitable for shrugging.

    I'm wondering if "oh yep" and "hell yep" and "fuck nope" and so on are ruled out by pragmatics rather than syntax or prosody. Nobody says them because nobody is fist-poundingly passionate and shruggingly calm about the same proposition at the same time.

  41. Ellen said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    Dan Velleman, you seem to be noting the same thing I did, though you explained it better.

  42. Pflaumbaum said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    I can't get my head round wel'p, so'p or oh'p at all. I probably put the glottal stop in sometimes, but the /p/ is nowhere near anything I'd say. Are these AmE, or do any other BrE speakers have them?

  43. Stephen said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

    "Yep we can"?

  44. Sawney said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

    Can we? Yeparooney!

  45. keri said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    Hm. "Yup" was mentioned in the comments – I feel a lot less weird trying to say "oh, yup" than "oh, yep" – but I use both pronunciations on occasion (I'm more likely to say "yeah" or "yes", though). And even then, the "oh" seems to be one that signals a change in train of thought, "I see what's going on now" or "I changed my mind" or "I hadn't considered that, but" or even "I didn't realize I forgot to make my "yes" clear, let me repeat it for you". It's the same with "oh, nah", where both words then to be drawn out and kind of lazy sounding.

    Interesting that I'd never considered the difference between yup and yep before, but in trying them out just now, I have a definite preference for one over the other, but neither feel particularly comfortable to say, compared to yeah and yes.

  46. Dan Velleman said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    Ellen — Ah, yeah, if that's what you meant by "unstressed" then it looks like we agree. Yay!

  47. groki said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    @Ellen K., @Pflaumbaum, @Jerry Friedman:

    one spelling I've seen in published texts for the opposite of (positive) Mm-hm is "opposite" as well: Hm-mm. I've also seen the negative spelled Mm-mm.

    Uh-uh is different, with mouth open instead of closed. that's the spelling I'd use for the open-mouth version of Mm-mm. and I'd spell the other two opens as Uh-huh (positive) and Huh-uh (negative).

    incidentally, for me the pitch contour is pretty standardized: for the positives it's low-high, while for the negatives it's high-low. (interesting that the ding-dong "doorbell" sound resembles the negative rather than the positive: as though visitors announce their presence with Hm-mm.)

  48. GeorgeW said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

    @Pflaumbaum:

    "But the glottal stop and velar/uvular fricative are normal phonemes in that position in Arabic, aren't they?"

    Yes, these are regular phonemes in Arabic – at any position. What I was observing is that the glottal stop was added to the coda in the dialect where it does not occur in the Standard. But, I am not sure that this has any significance or relationship to glottalized /p/s in English.

  49. Andy said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

    @colin reid, @lauren,

    I like this idea of the 'p' in yup, nope, welp, representing a kind of semantic closure. I've wondered (and maybe this has been discussed on this blog somewhen) about the use of 'up' as expressing aspect (my experience is with Russian language) — where eat is just eating and to "eat up" is to complete the action right there. Is it possible this end 'p' is linked somehow to the 'up' particle?

  50. mollymooly said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

    In my Irish experience, "yip" [sic] with released plosive, is a good deal more common than "yep" (or "nope" for that matter). I don't know whether "yip" is even the same word as "yep".

  51. Alain Turenne said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    Ray Girvan: "the French casual ouais"

    I think that's right: We say "Ah oui?", "Et oui…", "Oh, oui!", all the time, but substituting "ouais" there doesn't seem to work. I never heard "oh ouais" or this kind of thing. "Ouais" stands alone.

  52. Ellen K. said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

    I think "yep" is like my "yup" as far as the p goes. Which is, it's not released. The mouth comes closed and stays that way. Which is different than your (@mollymooly) description of the Irish "yip".

  53. Lauren said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    @Andy — it feels more like a gestural phenomenon than a semantic one, but maybe that's just because the gesture is the origin of the semantics?

    @Others — I'm really surprised by how many people *don't* have a bilabial closure at the end of yep/nope/wellp/etc… I have a very pronounced one that gets more pronounced the snarkier I feel. I even pop it (ejective, I guess?) when I'm feeling particularly sassy.

    And for those unbelievers: here's a .wav file of me saying 'yep, nope, wellp' how I would normally say them… http://bit.ly/aBHS1j
    (let me know if the link doesn't work)

  54. Lazar said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

    I find that I often pronounce "yep" and "nope" with an unreleased [p], which is an otherwise rare sound in my speech. I regularly have unreleased final [t] in my speech, but I almost always do a full release for final [k] and [p].

  55. John said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

    @Lauren: I've head the 'wellp' for many, many years. I suspect I first came across it in films from the 1930s, with gangster and floozy talk, but also Westerns.

  56. DRK said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    I feel somehow that the whole "wellp" thing might have something to do with this Penny Arcade strip from 2008:

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/3/21/

    They spell it "whelp". But the meaning is clear.

  57. Lauren said,

    November 11, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    @John: Yes, it's been around probably as long as lips. However, I've only seen the spelling reflect that recently.

    @DRK: I *knew* I'd seen it somewhere like that. Thanks!

  58. Qov said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 2:24 am

    I often attempt to text "yep" but my phone autocorrects it to "yes," and I never override the autocorrect. If I text "ayup" instead, it works.

    This reminds me to wonder if any of the feints people put into texts to thwart the technological obstacles (e.g. "hai" for "hi" because with h and i on the same key it's easier to text quickly) end up in spoken language.

  59. Lazar said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 2:45 am

    Qov: I've always interpreted netspeak "hai" as having the same phonetic value as "hi".

  60. groki said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 6:33 am

    @Lazar:

    pronunciation-wise, "hi" and "hai" are different for me.

    my "hai" is in a slightly 'cuter' voice, with higher pitch, more squeezed throat, and longer enunciation than normal. (in my idiolect it's fairly obligatory (albeit a little silly) to say "hai" the way I imagine a lolcat would.)

    both words have dipthongs for the vowel(s), but "hi" ends around [ɪ], whereas "hai" makes it all–or almost all–the way to [i].

    "hai" also has an exaggerated aspiration–a quiet almost-glottal fricative whooshing along in the background–at the beginning and the end.

  61. Cy said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

    when I teach speakers of tonal languages "mm-hmm," "un-hunh," "nope," "yup" and "un-unh," they always really get it. I've noticed that, regardless of whether it's one "word" or not, it's always said with the same type of level tone (self-reporting here) – nope with the wrong tone sounds so wrong (imagine "yup?" – totally wrong tonal environment). It makes me think of all the phonation involved in tonogenesis, and the behavior derived from devoiced finals. Although it seems (seems) here that the final unreleased bilabial came from the tone, not the other way around. My favorite utterly alien feature of english intonation patterning.

  62. Jason said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    This is just a mistake made by a non-native speaker. Even with 'yeah', 'oh, yeah' seems to be an odd way to agree to a meeting.

  63. Benjamin Zarzeczny said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    I imagine someone has already mentioned this in one of the 50 comments that I skipped just now, but I wanted to note that I tend to use "nope" or "yep" whenever I get asked questions by co-workers that require one-word answers and that I find myself doing so in order to sound more informal. Answering their questions with "no" seems to imply "No. Now leave me alone so I can get back to some real work," while "nope" seems to convey a more casual attitude. I think I do this both in-person and over our instant messages.
    Does anybody else feel the same way?

  64. Clay Beckner said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    Bolinger discussed 'yep' and 'nope' back in 1946 (in American Speech). I believe Bolinger argued that [p] appeared because English speakers snapped their mouths shut with a communicative finality– assuming that there's an iconic element to having one's mouth closed, to signal that no more communication is forthcoming. So this is entirely consistent with GKP's observation that 'Yep and Nope appear to have evolved as one-word utterances.' It does seem that 'yep' and 'nope' have had a distinctive pragmatic function, as a minimal reply when a yes/no response is required of the speaker. Of course, this function has shifted a bit if some speakers say 'Oh, yep,' or if they can follow 'yep'/'nope' with additional words.

  65. Chandra said,

    November 12, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

    @Qov: I'm pretty sure "hai" came about as an intentional lolspeak misspelling rather than an attempt to thwart technological obstacles:

    http://www.vervloesem.eu/qed/index.php/2008/01/26/o-hai-i-solvez-ur-rubiks-cube/

  66. Scott said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 10:58 am

    I absolutely agree with your assertion here, Geoff. And I might venture a (quite possibly wildly wrong) hypothesis as to why 'yep' and 'nope' are single-word utterances: they tend to be used in a curt or ironic way. If someone says something obvious, or annoying, or boring, or the responder simply wants to move on, I think that they would be much more likely to use 'yep' or 'nope' than in other situations. Using this as single-word utterances adds to their colloquial flavor, the brevity of the statement emphasizing their discomfort/boredom/annoyance.

  67. Andrew John said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

    @Ellen K., @Pflaumbaum, @Jerry Friedman, @groki

    There is an entire Scottish (traditional?) song on the unspellability of that utterance.

    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=36220#505453

  68. Nathan Myers said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 12:35 am

    It is observations like this that make LL so valuable. Thank you, Prof. Pullum.

    A western variation on "yep" is "hayup". It has even more finality, suggesting a more considered assent.

  69. Kevin said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 8:33 am

    Reading through these, I cam across the example of "hell yep" and "fuck nope" as utterances that may be analogous to "oh yep" and "oh nope". I am a 22 year-old native speaker of Chicagoan English (with a brief stint in Montreal, if that changes anything) and to me "oh yep" and "oh nope", unless said with a large break between oh and "yep"/"nope", are definitely wrong. (possibly a double asterisk for me. Even with the long break they still sound strange) However, when I read and say "hell yep" and "fuck nope" to myself, they sound much better than "oh yep" and "oh nope" I would mark them as either acceptable or a ? depending on the intonation. I am not sure if this due in part to my age or a possible lack of sleep. I will ask some of my peers.

    I tend to have ejectives (it's been confirmed by more than one phonologist; strange I know. It's more common with k than the rest) with single final utterances ending in p/t/k, but even for me the p in "yep" and "nope" are unreleased.

  70. abby said,

    November 17, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    Well, there's always the ever popular "Oh CRAP!"
    Single final utterances ending in p can suggest finality, but also panic, worry, regret, and a touch of self loathing.
    "Oh CRAP! I forgot to do the freaking essay."
    "CRAP."

  71. Alon Lischinsky said,

    November 25, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    Perhaps based on the model of English yup/nope (my first encounter with them was in the mid-90s, when Internet culture and the accompanying colloquial register had already made them available), Spanish has equivalent sip and nop (illlustrated here, for example), but these don't seem to exhibit the same constraints (the example I link to is clause-initial).

  72. scav said,

    December 11, 2010 @ 7:35 am

    I'm going to start using [mɰp], for "that was such a stupid question that this conversation is now over"

  73. Joey said,

    January 29, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

    With all the talk about "mmhmm" and the negative I was reminded of this.

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