Word Annotations

Adapted from Peter Heeman and James F. Allen (1995) The Trains 93 Dialogues, Trains Technical Note 94-2, University of Rochester.


All tagged items must be separated by spaces from other words.


Common acronyms such as cd, dvd, and pc should be transcribed with letters separated by an underscore: c_d, d_v_d. Plurals should be transcribed as c_ds, p_cs.

Silences and Breaths

In order to capture word durations, we also mark other phenomena in the word layer. This includes breaths within the utterance, and noticeable silences, which disrupt the flow of speech. As with words, these are labelled at the end of the breath or silence, with a <breath> or a <sil>, respectively. Only silences that are perceptible should be transcribed. A transcribed line should not consist of silence only.

Disfluencies and Partial Words

Partial words should be transcribed with a <partial> tag, followed by a [PARTIAL] tag containing the transcription of the utterance.
     When possible, words should be transcribed using their standard spelling; do not try to capture the way a word was spoken by modifying its normal spelling. Disfluencies that are not identifiable words should be transcribed as they sound inside angle brackets <>. These include words that are so misspoken that the intended word is not recognizable. In cases when the word is recognizable but cut off, it should be labelled by spelling as much of the word as can be heard, followed by a dash. For example "oran-" would label the word "orange" that was interrupted before the "g" sound.
     If the word was cut off midstream, but the word that the speaker intended to say is obvious, then the rest of the word should be included in parentheses. For instance, in the above, it would be transcribed as "<partial> [PARTIAL oran(ge)-]".
     Sometimes when a speaker is trying to interrupt the other person, she will start to say a word and then give up. The resulting sound should be transcribed as a partial word.
     When multiple sounds are emitting in a row, they should be transcribed as a single partial word, unless there is a perceptible silence in between the two sounds.

Capital Letters and Proper Names

Capital letters should only be used to begin proper names, such as "Corning" and for the pronoun "I". Engine name,s such as "E2" are problematic, since they could be viewed as a proper name. However, we will transcribe them as two words "E" and "two".
     A partial word should only be capitalized if its completion is clear, and that completion is a proper name. In this case, the completion will be put in parentheses. So, for the city "Corning", "Corn-" is not acceptable, but either "Corn(ing)-" or "corn-" is (the second case is where it is not clear to the transcriber that the speaker was going to say "Corning".

Mispronounced Words

Mispronounced words should in general be spelled correctly, unless the misspelling is needed in order to understand the subsequent dialogue. For instance, if the speaker says "Dansvull", and later corrects himself by saying "Dansville", then the first occurrence should be spelled in a way that reflects the mispronunciation and placed inside angle brackets, e.g., .


Numbers should be spelled out in full, as they are said. For instance, if a speaker says "104" as "one oh four", this is what should be transcribed, as three words.Numbers should not be hyphenated (i.e., transcribe 25 as "twenty five".


Each component of a time should be spelled out in full. The words "a.m." and "p.m." should be spelled as such. For instance "four p.m." should be annotated as two words.

Common Words ins Spoken Dialogues

There are a number of words that are common in spoken dialogues that do not occur in written forms. This section discusses how such words should be transcribed. Where possible, we use the spelling from Quirk et al. (1985).

Filled Pauses

Filled pauses are very common in natural dialogue. There seem to be two types, ones that sound like "uh" and ones that sound like "um". The endings of these words are often prolonged, thus tempting transcribers to label them as "ummm". Rather, these words should be classified as either "um" or "uh", and transcribed as such. We also include "er", which is more common in British accents. Note that filled pauses should never be transcribed as partial words.

um Filled pause.
uh Filled pause.
er Filled pause. More common in British English.


The following is a list of commonly occurring acknowledgements, and how they should be spelled.

okay Agreement. Speakers will often produce variants of this, such as "kay", "mkay", "umkay". All of these variants should be spelled as "okay".
uhuh Agreement.
mmhm Agreement.
mm Agreement, stalling for time.
huh Request for clarification. Puzzlement.
hm Stalling for time.
nah Informal version of "no".
nope Informal version of "no".
aha Interjection denoting surprise, as in "aha! I found it", rather than "uhuh" as an acknowledgement.
ha Interjection, similar to "aha"
oh Surprise.
ooh As in "ooh, that's gross."
yeah Informal version of "yes".
yep Informal version of "yes".


Contractions, that are common, should be written as one word. The following is a list of common contraction endings. If it is unclear whether the second word is actually contracted,transcribe each word fully. For example, if it is unclear whether the speech is "he's" or "he is", transcribe it as the latter.

'll for "will" or "shall"
've for "have"
n't for "not"
're for "are"
's for "is" or "has" or "us" (in "let's")
'd for "would"
'm for "am"

     If transcribers encounter contractions that are not included in this list, inform the project supervisor.

Word Pairs

There are some word paris that are so altered (in pronunciation) that they seem to be one lexical item. Such pairs can be transcribed as single words. Below, we give some common word pairs.

lemme for "let me"
wanna for "want to"
gonna for "going to"
gotta for "got to"
kinda for "kind of"
sorta for "sort of"
hafta for "have to"

Other phenomena

Laughter, tongue clicking, and other phenomenon can be transcribed in the word tier if it does not overlap with the speaker's speech. Such phenomena should be enclosed in angle brackets. Common transcriptions are given below.

<click> Obvious tongue-clicking.
<clicks> Tongue-clickings. Usually made to fill a silence.
<mumble> Incomprehensible word or words.
<noise> Noises from the speaker that cannot be classified elsewhere
<lipsmack> Noises made by the repeated parting of the lips, often used while thinking or stalling.
<sil> Silence. This can appear anywhere in the utterance, including the beginning and end.