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There is a response in Australian English that means "Yes I hear you and empathise with your situation, but no this course of action won't work for me." [Yeah-Nah]

I assumed this was a normal part of the English language, until I saw other discussions claiming this to be unique to Australian English. That didn't seem to hold water for me.

My question is: Is 'yeah-nah' a uniquely Australian idiom?

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    I have never heard that expression in the United States, nor in my traveling to London, Kenya, or Canada. – ScotM Jun 21 '15 at 4:08
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    a similar expression is found in US English but not with the same meaning. – jlovegren Jun 21 '15 at 4:32
  • that's fascinating @jlovegren - do you have any further experiences of that? – hawkeye Jun 21 '15 at 4:34
  • "I hear, but don't agree." Is that the same as "Whatever"? – Hugh Jun 21 '15 at 5:42
  • It's exceedingly common in Norwegian (ja nei), too, except there it doesn't really mean anything at all, other than just being a filler to indicate that you're keeping up with the conversation and are going to say something. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 21 '15 at 7:13
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Expanding on @jlovegren's comment:

It turns out there are similar idioms in American, Indian, South African and New Zealand English.

This concept has popular culture references in How I Met Your Mother and Punch Drunk Love.

There is a study on this by the University of Pennsylvania.

In the Australian case - there is a study: [K. Burridge and M. Florey, "''Yeah-no He's a Good Kid': A Discourse Analysis of Yeah-no in Australian English", Australian Journal of Linguistics, 22(2): 124-171, 2002. Here's the abstract:

Yeah-no in Australian English is a relatively new marker which serves a number of functions, including discourse cohesion, the pragmatic functions of hedging and face-saving, and assent and dissent.

Also on the Australian side, there is this article in the Age.

So in conclusion, there seem to be similar phrases across dialects of English, but not with necessarily the same meaning. (One might add, their meaning seems sufficiently context-specific and flexible that there are few established rules on this. )

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    Additionally, I'm familiar with an American English idiomatic use of this phrase that's slightly rude; you'd probably only say it around people you know well. Example: Child: "Can't I watch some TV? I'm almost done with my homework!" Parent: "Yeah, no." This usage carries a meaning of "I see your argument, but I'm still saying no." – Caleb Jun 21 '15 at 22:18
  • I have also heard "sí pero no" in Tex-Mex / Mex-Mex Spanish. – shoover Aug 5 at 16:55
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Yeah Nah is not really Australian at all and is far more prevalent in New Zealand. In fact Australian's visiting New Zealand often state they find our use of Yeah Nah baffling.

It's usually used to mean yes but no in a manner such as:

Q) "Do you want to go for a pint after work?" A) "Yeah Nah. I can't today." Translation: I'd love to go for a pint after work but I've got to get straight home today so I can get to parent teacher interviews on time."

Or:

Q) "Is xyz activity dangerous?" A) "Yeah Nah" Translation: XYZ activity is dangerous if you're an idiot.

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It might originally, but that is just an assumption, come from the german language where you can use the word 'jaein' which is the combination of 'ja' and 'nein'.(yeah and nah)

Probably through immigration this concept were transferred into the the English language(not necessarily from the german language but it is just an example)

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Estuary London, street and cockney speaking brits use this- yeah nah - sometimes yeah, no or no, yeah depending on how they pronounce it, for example, yeah, no, of course, I will - yeah, no bruv that wasn't happening.

Maybe Australians picked it up originally there. Or maybe the other way around. I'm Brit. I use it. Some of my relatives immigrated to Australia back in the 50s.

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