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Mm (confirmation token)

2020.04.30 | Samtalegrammatik.dk

The short interjection mm is one of the most frequent words in Danish talk-in-interaction. It typically occurs in the second or third position of a sequence and its functions vary depending on position and intonation. This entry is about mm used as a confirmation marker. When mm is used as confirmation, it typically has falling intonation and occurs in third position.

EA confirmation marker can be used when a speaker wishes to express – confirm – that they have received and understood the information their conversation partner has communicated. An example can be seen below, where DO has just asked about a man SUS has previously mentioned. SUS is explaining who the man is:

Samtalebank | Sam4 | moedregruppen | 556

01   SUS:   han bor nede på:: kirke:vejen↘
            he lives down on church road
02          (0.2)
03   SUS:   det ham der har det [firma der hedder Bingo]→
            it's him who has the firm called Bingo
04   DO:                        [NÅ::::::              ]::H
05          ↑okay↘
06   SUS:   han- han ha[:r jo han s]tår jo for næsten alle
            he- he has he is in charge of almost all
07   DO:               [↑ja ja     ]↘
                              yes yes
08   SUS:   ga[verne i vores]tombola der↘
            the presents in our tombola
09   DO:      [(okay)       ]↘
10   DO:    ja→
11   DO:    mm
12   SUS:   konebilen er en audi f[irehjulstrækker  ]
            the wife's car is an audi four-by-four
13   DO:                          [ja jeg ved det go]dt
                                         yes I know that

In line 04, DO expresses her recognition of the man with a loud and long NÅH okay (‘OH okay’). SUS nevertheless continues her description of him, in response to which DO on several occasions expresses that she understands who the man is, by uttering interjections in lines 07, 09, 10 and finally in line 11, which is an mm. SUS does not treat DO’s utterances as confirming that the man has been sufficiently explained. However, line 12 makes it quite clear that DO’s utterances are confirmation markers, because DO explicitly says ja jeg ved det godt (‘yes I know that’).

Sources and further reading

Dalum (2017) describes different functions of mm in relation to their intonation.

Steensig and Sørensen (2019) describes a number of particles, including mm.

Sørensen (2019) describes a number of answer tokens, including mm, in relation to their intonation and which actions they are able to perform.

Related entries

Forms > Word classes > Interjections and particles

Functions > Actions > Other actions> Expressing understanding

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