Prosodic features of bad news and good news in conversation

Jeremy Freese*, Douglas W. Maynard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Recent work suggests the importance of integrating prosodic research with research on the sequential organization of ordinary conversation. This paper examines how interactants use prosody as a resource in the joint accomplishment of delivered news as good or bad. Analysis of approximately 100 naturally occurring conversational news deliveries reveals that both good and bad news are presented and received with characteristic prosodic features that are consistent with expression of joy and sorrow, respectively, as described in the existing literature on prosody. These prosodic features are systematically deployed in each of the four turns of the prototypical news delivery sequence. Proposals and ratifications of the valence of a delivery are often made prosodically in the initial turns of the prototypical four-turn news delivery, while lexical assessments of news are often made later. When prosody is used to propose the valence of an item of news, subsequent lexical assessments tend to be alignments with these earlier ascriptions of valence, rather than independent appraisals of the news.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-219
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1998


  • Bad news
  • Conversation analysis
  • Good news
  • Prosody
  • Sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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