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I have always pronounced "yeah" as /yε/, i.e. as "yes" without the last sound.

Recently a friend told me he pronounces it /yæ/, i.e. it rhymes with "nah."

This came as a shock to me. Even worse, another friend agreed with my second friend. Is this a regionalism? I come from the American South, and the friends in question don't.

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1  
It’s /jæə/ for some speakers. –  tchrist Jan 18 at 13:41
    
It's pronounced like this: youtube.com/watch?v=OpvP4eHV4eA –  Barrie England Jan 18 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

This is purely anecdotal and personal, but I think it tallies quite well with many types of ‘generic broadcast American’ (if there is such a thing).

I would pronounce yeah as @tchrist describes in his comment, with a diphthong /jɛə/. It is the neutral, spoken variant of ‘yes’, which I rarely say in colloquial speech (except for emphasis).

Yeh /jɛ(ː)/ exists for me, but it’s not something I would use often. When I do, I’d quite likely also nasalise the vowel, making it /jɛ̃/. It is a different word to me (well, no, not a different word, but it’s not quite interchangeable with yeah), but I cannot for the life of me think of a conditioning that would cause me to use yeh over yeah.

Yah /jæ(ː)/ is definitely different to me. The difference between yes/yeah and yah is the same as that between no and nah: it’s less definite, more hesitant, and gives more of a feeling that you’ve kind of thought about this for a bit, and on the whole you’ve come to the perhaps not rock-steady decision that, “Sure, why not?”.

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The Yehs have it in congressional votes. The Beatles have it in "She Loves you, yeh, yeh, yeh." The Deutsch agree with a yah. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jan 18 at 14:39
    
You nailed it @WayfaringStranger! That should be an answer! –  Kristina Lopez Jan 18 at 15:05
    
@WayfaringStranger, interesting. I would say that the yeas (‘yays’) have it in congressional votes, and that the Beatles have it in “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”. I hear a diphthong in that song! –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 18 at 15:07

In the UK, the commonly accepted pronunciation is /yε/ with a relatively long vowel sound, however we do treat the words yeah and yah differently. Some localised regional dialects will use the word yah in place of yeah, but they don't consider it a different pronunciation, just the use of a different word altogether.

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I don't necessarily think of yeah and yah as "different words". I rarely actually articulate yup, but I often end my yeah/yah with a glottal stop in contexts where if I stopped to think about it I'd probably say yup was the response I had in mind. But I doubt anyone else could reliably identify which of all three yeah/yah/yup I'd said, so it's all a bit academic. –  FumbleFingers Jan 18 at 14:04

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