Wednesday, March 4, 1998 at 01:48:33
One filled pause that I find interesting: You're on the phone with someone, say, in technical support. As they're looking up something for you, they fill the pause with a "Choo, choo, choo," sound. It's almost like they're saying, "This silence doesn't mean you've been disconnected. I'm just busy looking for something." Interesting site. I enjoyed reading it.
I'm not sure if such 'choo-chooing' or tongue-clicks or other non-verbal sounds made on the telephone can be fully categorized as FPs (filled pauses) although they do indeed fill silence. FPs are believed to be connected to immediate speech production needs like stalling while thinking of the next word or phrase. The phenomenon you describe I believe has more to do with the discomfort felt by conversational participants when there is excessively long silence. This discomfort, however, is cultural. That is, not all cultures feel such discomfort to the same degree (although practically every language exhibits FPs in some manner). I live in Japan where I've often found that conversants in Japanese may be silent for several seconds without any discomfort.
However, I do agree with your primary assessment of the purpose of such silence-fillers in western society: it indicates to one's conversational partner that one is still engaged in the conversation although temporarily distracted.
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