Wednesday, March 18, 1998 at 08:12:38
I have often thought about filled paused and their use in interactions, but didn't guess that someone would one day give the subject such a rigorous treatment. These are a couple of the things that I have observed.
I myself sometimes insert FPs to soften a hard message like this "I thought you were <ah> going to finish this yesterday"
I knew someone who would use the word "but" as an FP, either to soften a message, like above, or as filler when he was unsure where he was going with a remark: "I thought you were all coming, <but>" "Isn't that why we're...<but>" It's important to note that the but is inflected down, almost mumbled.
Although the most common use of FPs is for stalling reasons (e.g., to think of the next word/phrase), you've hit one one important communicative use of FPs. Linguists have referred to it as 'mitigating' uses. That is, the FP is used to 'soften the blow', as it were. Those who despise the use of filled pauses in speech and work hard to rid their own speech of it might in fact end up developing a speech style which comes across as more aggressive and intimidating. Which may be well and good for those who require such qualities in their work/daily lives/etc. It is interesting to note that historically, such qualities were not considered lady-like, and thus in some academic studies (my own included) women are found to show more hesitation (through FPs, etc.) overall.
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