Yeah nah really?

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  1. Michael said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 6:02 pm

    Kinda. As a New Yorker, I hear the word they are transcribing "nah" as "no," and inflection plays an important role in determining meaning.

  2. Ariel said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

    Interesting, I am Australian and always thought the way it's set out in the meme was uniquely Aussie English slang. As opposed to Michael's assertion about its relevance to New York, it definitely resonates down here!

  3. Yeah nah really? • Zhi Chinese said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

    […] Source: Language Yeah nah really? […]

  4. McLemore said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

    I hear that in a Texas accent c. 1975 ("naw" instead of "nah") and intonation doesn't change the interpretation

  5. mpr said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 8:23 pm

    Surely this is an example of the Strine topolect, and not English spoken by New Yorkers. I'm with Ariel on this one.

  6. Zeppelin said,

    February 2, 2017 @ 9:02 pm

    I've not been to New York or any part of Australia, but those phrases all seem clear and fairly unremarkable to me as a non-native speaker who reads a lot of colloquial written English on the internet.
    Everything but the last element of the phrase is working as a modal particle, I'd say:

    –"Nah Yeah" is [dismiss own hypothetical objections] [Yes]

    –"Yeah Nah" is [confirm I've understood] [No]

    –"Yeah Nah For Sure" is [confirm I've understood] [dismiss own hypothetical objections] [for sure]

    …or something like that. Describing what exactly Abtönungspartikel communicate is hard.

    The fact that calling someone "a shit" is an insult while calling them "the shit" is high praise, on the other hand…

  7. ngage92 said,

    February 3, 2017 @ 10:02 am

    I would never use "nah" in any of these contexts, always "no". And while I'm not a native New Yorker I lived in Hell's Kitchen for many years.

    "Nah" is more of a solo utterance.

  8. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 3, 2017 @ 10:41 am

    I hear "yeah no" and "no yeah" now and then in New Mexico, not from New Yorkers or Australians. Instead of doing my duty as a Language Log commenter, I ignore those words and get the meaning from what follows.

  9. Mark F. said,

    February 3, 2017 @ 11:22 am

    If we've established that "Nah" really is just "no" here, then this "Yeah, no" and "No, yeah" thing is quite widespread and really has no special connection to New York, as far as I can tell. ML himself analyzed it back in 2008:

  10. Mark Liberman said,

    February 3, 2017 @ 2:38 pm

    What do Australians and Texans and New Yorkers have in common? Substantial Scots and/or Irish ancestry…

    Then again, as I wrote back in 2008, "in all the cases that I looked at, the yeah and the no seem be independently appropriate in the context of use, even if the sequence seems surprising when viewed in merely semantic terms". So maybe it's just shared human ancestry that matters…

  11. Q. Pheevr said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 10:41 am

    My attempt at a tweet-sized theory of such utterances:

    Strings of polarity expressions:
    • To generate: Conform to the Obligatory Contour Principle.
    • To interpret: Ignore all but the last.

    The tweet I was responding to, incidentally, attributed the construction to California English. I wonder if there’s a Regionality Illusion parallel to the Recency Illusion—any nonslarkish usage one notices in oneself and one's peers is presumed to be a local dialect feature.

  12. stephen said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 11:17 pm

    When did people start using okay to mean no, and why do dictionaries not mention this?

  13. djw said,

    February 5, 2017 @ 12:33 am

    stephen, my sister raised her kids on "okay" to mean mostly "I am aware that you have reported a situation, so go work it out," which usually meant she wasn't going to do anything to sort out whatever they were complaining about. Are you sure you're hearing "okay" to mean "no" and not just "okay" to mean, "I hear you"? (Closest analogy I can come up with is folks who aren't used to "y'all" assuming we Texans use it as a singular, as in "How're y'all doing?" when speaking to a single person. We know it means "How are you and yours doing?" but some folks don't register that.)

  14. David Marjanović said,

    February 6, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

    Polish is routinely described by its speakers as the language where no means "yes": "well" > "well, yeah" > "yes" (colloquial, without too much emphasis perhaps).

  15. Robin said,

    February 7, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

    I think you'll find this is considered to be uniquely from New Zealand. I assume everyone else had an autocorrect failure after typing "new." Except the Australian commenters who are continuing their "steal things from NZ" tradition :)

  16. Ariel said,

    February 7, 2017 @ 5:30 pm

    @Robin haha you can have this one mate!

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