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.

  • 2
    It’s /jæə/ for some speakers. – tchrist Jan 18 '14 at 13:41
  • It's pronounced like this: youtube.com/watch?v=OpvP4eHV4eA – Barrie England Jan 18 '14 at 15:30
  • @tchrist Any idea which kind of speakers? There's the Beatles 'yeah yeah yeah' = /jε/ (which I think is the usual pronunciation), and then there's what sounds to me like a very special 'yay yuh' by Mordecai and Rigby on the Regular Show = /je: jʌ/. Does /jæə/ rhyme with anything in media I might have heard before? – Mitch Jul 9 '18 at 2:30
  • @Mitch "Hey dude, ya wanna sweet potato?" "Yam, man!" "Nah sorry, only got sweet potatoes today." For speakers with bisyllabic yam, man, ma'am, or even with a centralizing diphthong, their /jæə/ and /næə/ will rhyme. – tchrist Jul 9 '18 at 4:11

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?”.

  • 2
    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 '14 at 14:39
  • You nailed it @WayfaringStranger! That should be an answer! – Kristina Lopez Jan 18 '14 at 15:05
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    @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 '14 at 15:07

I say /jæə/. Raised in US Midwest and East midantlantic. I have just this week been shocked to hear two young women (mid twenties) in the US Southwest pronounce it YIH, with a "short" i as in "still," but quantitatively long. Like YIIIHH.

  • I'll bet your /jæə/ rhymes with your /næə/, too. I know mine does. – tchrist Jul 9 '18 at 4:00

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.

  • 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 '14 at 14:04

Well, it was ᵹea in Old English. But I'm not sure how best to describe the diphthong that I have in this word, which begins substantially higer than the æ in "jæə" abd ends substantially lower than ə, and possibly a bit farther back. Not being able to climb inside and have a look while I pronounce this, about the only thing I can say for certain is that this diphthong for me doesn't begin specifically with æ, e, or ε but somewhere in between these vowels, and definitely doesn't end exactly with æ, ə, or a either, but somewhere between these vowels as well.

I've always thought it would be fun to pronounce words like head and oar with the falling/centering diphthongs they once had--and happy that at least one word (ᵹea) has survived that has managed to hold onto one of these diphthongs, more or less.


Yea, as in the verse from Psalms, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death", is usually pronounced like yay, the exclamation, a synonym for "hooray". Yea as in an affirmative vote, is pronounced the same, perhaps because of the rhyme in "yea" and "nay". I would pronounce yeah with two syllables /jæə/, but yeh or yah (variants, like yeah, of yes) with one. Cowboys are famous for saying yup. While we're at it, aye (an affirmative [vote]) or aye aye (in sailor-talk), is usually pronounced like "eye", but aye, ([for]ever), is sometimes pronounced like the name of the letter A.

  • 1
    But what about the utterance spelled 'yeah'? – Mitch Jul 8 '18 at 18:50
  • As I said in my comment, Mitch, "yeah" is two syllables, /jæə/ – tautophile Jul 8 '18 at 21:57
  • Which comment? I don't see anything in your answer here that refers to the OP's 'yeah', just 'yea' or 'yeh' which are presumably different things. I'm – Mitch Jul 8 '18 at 22:50
  • Mitch, see the third sentence I wrote above ["I would pronounce yeah with two syllables /jæə/, but yeh or yah (variants, like yeah, of yes) with one. "] – tautophile Jul 8 '18 at 23:41
  • Oh my bad. it was hard to see with those other yea's. – Mitch Jul 9 '18 at 2:06

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