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My Dissertation

My dissertation (completed in March, 1998) on FPs in spontaneous speech focused first on confirming and deepening an understanding of their communicative purpose and their potential influence on teaching English as a second or foreign language.

I interviewed and recorded four subjects. These recordings were transcribed and marked up using a Visual Basic application I created for this purpose called "Tagger". The data suggest no significant challenge to existing descriptions of FPs in spontaneous speech. What I do observe in the data is that all speakers use some strategy to make their speech sound more fluent, but that each speaker is unique. Some speak more slowly and deliberately with few FPs, others a little faster with some FPs. Some fluctuate their speech rate widely, sometimes speaking in a rapid staccato fashion, other times stretching out each syllable far longer than normal.

One interesting observation in the data is the lack of correlation between what I call an 'open' FP (e.g., "uh", "er") and a 'closed' FP (e.g., "um", "erm").  This suggests that the choice between the two is not arbitrary--that the conditions under which each occur are distinct.   However, at present, I can offer no theory on the difference. This may be of significance to pausological studies since practically all researchers have considered the two as the same phenomenon.

I advise emphasis on two important aspects of FPs in language teaching. First, FPs may be studied for the sake of improved listening comprehension. It is apparent that many native speakers use FPs frequently in speech and nonnatives can easily confuse these occurrences with lexical items. A greater awareness of this speaking strategy may reduce listening misperceptions. Second, in the same way that native speakers make themselves sound more fluent through FPs, so may a nonnative speaker improve (apparent) fluency.

Interested persons are invited to read me dissertation online.  Please click on the following link.



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This site is maintained by Ralph L. Rose
Last Revised: 99/08/26


Note! This is the original FPRC ca. 1998. It is made available for archival purposes only. Click here to return to the current FPRC.