Friday, February 20, 1998 at 08:35:50

I graduated with a degree in Communications. Some of the reasons for using filled pauses have always facinated me, especially those used for keeping the floor in conversation.  The COO of the company I work for, is known for his filled pauses--a long, loud ahhh. He sometimes uses his ahhh as a cue to others to laugh at his jokes.   Have you come across this in your research?

- PH

I have not yet encountered such in my research.  However, I have found, in analyzing the pausing strategies of several individuals that it is difficult (perhaps impossible) to determine any very specific patterns of pausing which are observed universally.  Each individual develops an idiosyncratic system of achieving hesitation in spontaneous speech.  Some will use a filled pause every three or four words, while others will use silent pauses.  Still others will practice lengthening (draw out the enunciation of words). Furthermore, I find that individuals find different words and expressions to 'stall' for thinking time.  Common ones are, of course, "you know", "well", and "like".  One speaker I know frequently tagged her sentences with "and that".  I haven't studied this in detail yet, but I sense that these lexicalized filled pauses are less distracting to listeners than the unlexicalized ones (um/uh).  So it may be that those who use few filled pauses in spontaneous speech are not necessarily more fluent, but simply have developed different pausing strategies.

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