“No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

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eldin raigmore
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“No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by eldin raigmore »

Many native speakers of English, or at least the American and Australian ones, frequently begin answers to questions with “yeah no” or “no yeah”.
I don’t know if this is restricted to polar questions; or, maybe instead, applies to other utterances than answers.

What do these phrases mean? And under what semantic or pragmatic conditions are they likely to be used?

I don’t know whether Australians, or anyone else but Americans, do this next thing: but,
American English speakers not-too-infrequently begin an answer with “no yeah no” or “yeah no yeah”!
Why?
What do those phrases mean?
When (semantically and/or pragmatically) is one of those phrases more likely to begin an answer than “yeah no” or “no yeah”?
Or a simple “yeah” or “no”?

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Ser
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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Ser »

The intonation groups make them easier to understand, so note the commas: "no, yeah", "yeah, no", "no, yeah no", "yeah no, yeah". (Of course, people don't write the commas a lot of the time.)

"no, yeah" means something like "no, and unfortunately that's the case" or "no, and I understand this may be hard to swallow".

"yeah, no" means something like "that's correct: it isn't the case at all" (what you just said a second ago is correct: what we're currently talking about is not the case).

"no, yeah no" means something like "no, and I'm emphatically saying it really isn't the case".

"yeah no, yeah" means something like "that's right, it isn't the case at all, unfortunately / I know it may be hard to swallow".
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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Alessio »

I'll answer for what concerns my mother tongue, :ita: Italian, and my second pseudo-mother tongue, Emilian.
In Emilia-Romagna we do have a tendency to use the equivalent of "yeah no" (i.e. sì no) in some contexts, for example when the other person has expressed surprise towards something he didn't actually understand fully. For example:

«Stasera vado al cinema con Cristina» - I'll go to the movies with Christina tonight.
«Ma non avevi detto che ci andavi domenica?» - Wasn't it supposed to be Sunday night?
«Sì no domenica ci vado con Alessia, stasera invece con Cristina» - Yeah no actually Sunday night I'll go with Alexis, and tonight with Christina.

Curiously, in Emilian this feature isn't as widespread as in Italian, even though it's pretty much a regional thing. We do have other instances of oxymora, for example when you want to delay something it's common to reply "adêsa dàp" (lit. now later):

«Pǒrtet vìa al rósc?» - Will you take out the trash?
«Sè, adêsa dàp ag peins.» - Yeah, I'll do it later.

Finally, this one isn't really an oxymoron in and of itself, although it sounds like one. Emilian often uses «valà» (common spelling of «và là», i.e. "go there") as a form of exhortation, and when you use it in some situations it becomes funny:
«Vin chè, valà!» - Come on, come here! (lit. come here, go there!)
If you add "adêsa dàp" as an answer, it becomes even funnier. You can pretty much be sure those two people are never going to meet.
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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Salmoneus »

"yes" and "no" (and variants) serve not just as answers, but as pragmatic devices relating to emotion, attitude, and relationships.

Off the top of my head:

"Yes" is typically used to:
- signal respect for and understanding with the previous speaker, and a desire to remain allied with them
- signal a positive frame of mind (optimism, pleasure, etc)
- agree with the previous statements
- consent to a positive plan
- recognise a good point
- express solidarity

"No" is typically used to:
- signal empathy with negative feelings and emotions
- agree with a preceding negative statement
- disagree with a preceding positive statement
- dissent from a plan
- consent to a negative plan
- signal a negative frame of mind (pessmism, doubt, displeasure, etc)
- recognise a good negative point


The desire to do several of these at once can lead to strings of these being assembled. They can also be responding to multiple overt or implicit statements by the previous speaker, and sometimes may be responding to previous or unexpressed statements of the new speaker (in the latter case, either because they 'forgot' they didn't actually say them, or to signal that they were thinking them). And because these strings can be ambiguous, they may be followed by more 'yes' or 'no' instances in an attempt to make them clearer.

In particular, there's a big pressure to include a "yes" to make clear that no conflict is being sought. But "yes" can also be problematic if it fails to make your intentions clear, or if it's seen as failing to respect a negative emotion.


So "no yeah no" might be in response to something like "Those arseholes! I'm not giving them another penny!":
"no" - empathising with a negative emotion
"yeah" - expressing solidarity, making clear that you're not criticising their unconventional decision
"no" - agreeing with their negative plan

In other words it's "yeah no" with a preceding "no" for empathy, or "no yeah" with a following "no" for clarity.

Similarly, "yeah no yeah" is likely to be either "yeah no" with a following "yeah" of support and agreement, or "no yeah" with a preceding "yeah" of recognition.

Alternatively these can be responses to different things, compressed into one chain. Like "I'd love to go to the Bahamas, but I'm not made of money!" can elicit a "yeah no yeah" - yes I agree with wanting to go to the Bahamas, no I sympathise that you're not made of money, and yeah I recognise the quandary that these two conflicting observation impose upon you.

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Aszev »

Alessio wrote:
11 Feb 2020 09:05
«Pǒrtet vìa al rósc?» - Will you take out the trash?
I wanted to put this in the false cognates thread, but I couldn't verify the etymologies enough. In Finland Swedish, the word rosk is still used in the sense of 'trash' 🙂

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Creyeditor »

I frequently use variants of this in German ("Nee ja nö" and the like). At least one of them often is out of hesitation, so I would agree with Sal that these are often more pragmatic and discourse-level than sentence level semantic devices.
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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

I tend to say "No, yeah, no, I know" a lot. It's obnoxious. I seem to say this when I slightly resent what someone is telling me but also can't disagree with it. I also use a lot of "yeah, no" when I'm uncertain about what I'm saying.

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Alessio »

Aszev wrote:
11 Feb 2020 15:07
Alessio wrote:
11 Feb 2020 09:05
«Pǒrtet vìa al rósc?» - Will you take out the trash?
I wanted to put this in the false cognates thread, but I couldn't verify the etymologies enough. In Finland Swedish, the word rosk is still used in the sense of 'trash' 🙂
I'd say let's put it there and let someone else do the dirty work to prove you wrong [xD]
I can go as far as Italian rusco, but it's so regional that I'm quite certain it's a loanword from Emilian and not a derivation from a common ancestor. Latin has ruscum but it's a plant, so I can't get any further either.
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Tin't inameint ca tót a sàm stê żōv'n e un po' cajoun, mo s't'armâgn cajoun an vōl ménga dîr t'armâgn anc żōven...

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Aszev »

Alessio wrote:
11 Feb 2020 18:44
Aszev wrote:
11 Feb 2020 15:07
Alessio wrote:
11 Feb 2020 09:05
«Pǒrtet vìa al rósc?» - Will you take out the trash?
I wanted to put this in the false cognates thread, but I couldn't verify the etymologies enough. In Finland Swedish, the word rosk is still used in the sense of 'trash' 🙂
I'd say let's put it there and let someone else do the dirty work to prove you wrong [xD]
I can go as far as Italian rusco, but it's so regional that I'm quite certain it's a loanword from Emilian and not a derivation from a common ancestor. Latin has ruscum but it's a plant, so I can't get any further either.
My impression is that that's the Italian etymology. I came across ruscum 'butcher's-broom' and rúscum 'heather' (the latter only in a single source). I'm guessing the shift is type of plant > hay > trash.

Funnily enough, the Swedish word has a parallell form rusk, which also means trash, but in some dialects also bundles of cut grain! (In the standard language rusk generally refers to bad weather, though, with the other senses being peripheral at best.) The etymology seems to be unclear, and the rain sense might even be unrelated.

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by Salmoneus »

Wiktionary alleges that English 'rusk' (stale bread crushed and used as filler in making cheap sausages) is derived from Spanish 'rosca' (the arc-shaped trajectory of a football struck with side-spin).

Etymology is a strange land.

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Re: “No yeah no” and “yeah no yeah”

Post by gestaltist »

Salmoneus wrote:
12 Feb 2020 20:19
Wiktionary alleges that English 'rusk' (stale bread crushed and used as filler in making cheap sausages) is derived from Spanish 'rosca' (the arc-shaped trajectory of a football struck with side-spin).

Etymology is a strange land.
It becomes a bit less strange if you remember that 'rosca' also means 'bagel' in Spanish.

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