There are lots of ways to indicate you disagree with some aspect of an utterance. I'm thinking here of the spectrum that includes "No, not-X," "Well, not-X," "Hey, wait a minute! Not-X!" "Yes, you're right about Y, but actually not-X," "Have you considered the possibility that not-X?" and so on. I'm interested in the question of how speakers choose between these forms.

Intuitively there are a few different factors that go into the decision. Politeness is a big one. But I suspect it's not the only one. Here's one paper on a factor other than politeness that goes into the choice between "No" and "Hey, wait a minute."

I'm looking for interesting articles or books on this phenomenon, from any disciplinary point of view: sociolinguistics, anthropology, semantics, pragmatics, whatever. They don't have to be about English — actually, I'd really like some references that aren't about English. Stuff on the role of politeness would be great. Stuff on other factors besides politeness would be even better (though I'm not sure how much work like that exists outside the business in formal semantics about "wait a minute").

  • So are you interested in the classic 'yes, but....' trope, the more recent 'wait,what?' realization, or the French 'si'/German 'doch'/American 'way' (in response to 'negatives 'no way'? (whatever the answer these are suggestions for search)
    – Mitch
    Oct 14, 2011 at 22:27
  • 2
    Have you seen 'Negotiating agreement and disagreement in Japanese: connective expressions' by Junko Mori? It's on Google books here Oct 14, 2011 at 22:43
  • @Mitch -- All of the above. I'm trying to cast a pretty wide net here. If you know of a really awesome source on any of those, I'd love to hear about it. Oct 14, 2011 at 23:26
  • @Gaston -- No, I haven't. I'll take a look. Oct 14, 2011 at 23:27
  • There's a funny way to express disagreement in Russian. One may say ну да, конечно which literally means well yes, of course. Depending solely on intonation, it may mean full agreement or full disagreement. Jul 28, 2012 at 8:01

1 Answer 1


Every sentence you process gets converted to a series of micro clauses (SVO). These are compared to the clauses in your memory. If no match is found, the new clause[s] are stored with a weight equal to your trust in the source. If they do match, then the trust is simply increased. If a new clause violates the logic of existing clause[s], then there is a disagreement. The 'politeness' of your response takes into account the trust in each version. Your memory can retain both versions, each with its own trust value, but housekeeping will look for ways to resolve the clash.

  • 2
    Welcome to SE Linguistics and thanks for your answer! Are you citing some model? Can you provide the reference then pls? Oct 24, 2015 at 2:57
  • The 'model' was a demonstration AI...
    – amI
    Dec 30, 2015 at 1:39

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