Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Stephen C. Levinson

Response Systems and Signals of Recipiency

Listeners’ signals of recipiency, such as “Mm-hm” or “uh-huh” in English, are the most elementary or minimal “conversational turns” possible. Minimal, because apart from acknowledging recipiency and inviting the speaker to continue with his/her next turn, they do not add any new information to the discourse of the conversation. The goal of this project is to gather cross cultural information on listeners’ feedback behaviour during conversation. Listeners in a conversation usually provide short signals that indicate to the speaker that they are still “with the speaker”. These signals could be verbal (like for instance “mm hm” in English or “hm hm” in Dutch) or nonverbal (visual), like nodding. Often, these signals are produced in overlap with the speaker’s vocalisation. If listeners do not produce these signals, speakers often invite them explicitly (e.g. “are you still there?” in a telephone conversation). Our goal is to investigate what kind of signals are used by listeners of different languages to signal “recipiency” to the speaker.


This Field Manual entry can be downloaded from the MPG Publication Repository:

How to cite this resource?

De Ruiter, J. P. (2004). Response systems and signals of recipiency. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 9 (pp. 53-55). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.506961.