Sunday, March 15, 1998 at 18:15:04

On the face of it I am a great talker, that is, I tend to talk a lot. But, with people I know well, I can be quite comfortable with long lapses in the conversation. I had an uncle who was very dear to me who could not tolerate these lapses and who would often, blurt out, "Well, by the way. . ." Early in our relationship, I would be fooled into thinking that he had a thought that he wanted to express, but it was never followed up on. Therefore, I offer this information as an ancillary definition of FP. The simple explanation that the companion cannot stand lapses in the conversation

- BB

I think you have struck upon one of the basic principles of the discussion of pauses in spontaneous speech. Sociolinguistically speaking, conversationalists (particularly in English, but possibly less so in, say, Japanese) are disturbed by lengthy stretches of silence. Thus a need is felt to fill this silence:  perhaps most often by the person who is most disturbed by the silence (e.g., your uncle).  I use this principle of English conversation as a basis for encouraging my Japanese students of English to fill their silence with both lexicalized and unlexicalized fillers.  This has the effect of making them sound more fluent (or at least, I don't notice the hesitation as much as when silent).

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