Cultural evolution of continuers

Continuers (frequent standalone utterances like mm-hm that people often use in succession) differ in interesting ways from other elements that are common, like top tokens (the most common words in a corpus) and discontinuers (frequent standalone utterances that people do not produce in successive streaks). A. Length of tokens for continuers, discontinuers and top tokens in 32 languages. B. Frequencies of major sound classes across types. Vowel nuclei occur across types, but continuers stand out for their preferences for nasals. C. Random forest analysis of 118 continuer forms in 32 spoken languages showing the top 10 most predictive phonemes (out of 29 attested).

Dingemanse, M., Liesenfeld, A., & Woensdregt, M. (2022). Convergent cultural evolution of continuers (mmhm). The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the Joint Conference on Language Evolution (JCoLE), 61–67. Download