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N↑Å↓: (rising intonation followed by falling intonation)

The particle nå   (generally /nʌ/) has many different functions. Among these is nå:, that is, an extended which also has rising-falling intonation. ↑↓: is used to indicate that a speaker has just now understood, recognized, or realized something which he or she did not understand, recognize, or realize earlier in the conversation. In the example below Fie thus indicates with her nå: in line 16 that she just now – after Ester’s explanation in lines 13-15 – understands why nobody answered her greeting in line 1 and her Hallo↗ (hello) in line 4. In addition, Fie then goes on to explain how she had originally understood the situation (that someone was playing a joke on her).

TH/M2/02 | Ester & Fie | It is me ((telephone))

01 Fie:   Det AnneSophie↘ hhh

          It’s AnneSophie hhh
02        (1.0)
03 Fie:   Hallo↗

04        (1.0)
05 Ester: H(h)al[lo ] hhehhe det mig↘

                      H(h)el[lo ] hehehe it’s me
06 Fie:       [ha-]

07        (0.1)
08 Fie:   Je[rh→

09 Ester:   [hheh •hheh det mig↘

                      [hheh hheh it’s me
10        (0.3)
11 Ester: Ester↘

12 Fie:   H*↑e::j Est[er↘]

          H*i::: Es[ter]
13 Ester:            [Jeg] havde >.hh< >Jeg var<

          [I ] had >.hh< I accidentally
14        kommet te' å trykke på fjederen på mit

          Pressed the spring on my
15        rør >så ka du [ikk< h]øre hva

          Receiver >so you can’t hear what
16 Fie:                     [N↑å: ]

                           [O↑h: ]
17 Ester: jeg si'er jeg k[a h]øre dig↘

                      I say I ca[n h]ear you
18 Fie:                  [Nej→]

19 Ester: •hh[hh s]å sidder man bare å snakk£er

          Hh[hh] then you just sit and talk
20 Fie:     [Nej→] (jeg ka ikk høre dig)

          [no] (I can’t hear you)
21 Ester: å s(hh)å k(h)a man ikk(h)

          And then you can’t
22        f(h)orstå(hh) h[eh heh]

          Understand h[eh heh]
23 Fie:                  [NE↑jh ]je- Jeg tænkte

          [No] I- I thought
24        det var så noget ☺gas et'l'andet☺↘

                      It was a prank or something

In the example above it is quite clear that Fie’s understanding has changed during the conversation. However, nå: is not by itself evidence that the speaker actually understands, recognizes, or remembers something she didn’t understand, recognize, or remember at an earlier point in the conversation. One can also pretend to have achieved such an understanding precisely by saying nå:. It seems like this is what Fie does in the next example, where she with a nå: in line 10 indicates that she knows who Peter is.

TH/S2/069 | Peter & Jens | The birthday child ((telephone))

01 Fie:    •ml Det AnneSophie→

                  It’s AnneSophie
02         (0.4)
03 Peter:  Ja go'daw AnneSophie det Petter→

          Yes good day AnneSophie it’s Peter

05 Fie:    Jerh→=

06 Peter:  =Tak for hils'nen→

                  Thank you for the greeting
07         (1.1)
08 Peter:  te' min fødselsdag→

                  For my birthday
09         (0.9)

10 Fie:    •clhH (0.2) N↑å↓:↘

11 Fie:    [Okay↘ 

12 Peter:  [>A' du] ikk rigtig klar over<
 hvem jeg er↗

                      Don’t you know who I am
13 Fie:    Nejh↘

14 Peter:  Ne:jh↘

15         (0.5)
16 Peter:  >Ka du ikk godt huske mig jeg var

                  Don’t you remember me I was
17         (j) over å passe jeres hunde↗<

                  Over and look after your dogs

The excerpt is from the opening sequence of a telephone conversation. When Fie doesn’t greet Peter back in line 4, but instead utters a delayed Jerh(yeah) it could be a sign that she doesn’t recognize him. Peter tries several times to provide her with small bits of information that could maybe assist her in identifying him. First by thanking her for a greeting (line 6), and then by specifying that the greeting was for his birthday (line 8). But even though Fie produces a Nå: in line 10 thus indicating that she has recognized Peter, this is not accepted, and Peter now asks Fie directly if she doesn’t know who he is. After Fie confirms that she in fact doesn’t know him, he tries once more to give her information that could get her to recognize him (lines 16-17).

Sources and further reading

Heinemann (2016b) is an analysis of how nå: is used to mark that the speaker has identified an object after long inspection time. The article also describes the prosodic differences between and nå:.


Reber (2012) and Koivisto (2015) both present examples of how the rising-falling intonation present in nå: is also used in both English and Finnish to mark delayed understanding.


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