Sunday, March 8, 1998 at 04:08:16
Very interesting! I never really had any special interest in this but your web site caught and held my attention and I now have a new fun thing to listen for in speech. As for unfilled pauses in speech, I use these in lectures as devices (mostly unconsciously). I think that they are an integral part of the rhythms of speech and are an important part of what determines how well you can hold peoples attention. I'd someday like to do a semi-formal study of what makes Spalding Gray so interesting to listen to, but I suspect that the rhythms of his speech will be an important factor. As for unfilled pauses, well, like I said, I'd never really thought about it. While reading your page I realized that I have intentionally used them to "soften the blow" and in attempts to make someone more comfortable. I also found the "conversational turn" idea very interesting.
The notion that pauses (both silent and filled) can help a speaker to hold the audience's attention is an interesting hypothesis worth testing. I am not familiar with any research on that particular theme, but it does seem to fit experience. Techniques like the 'pregnant pause', which certainly heightens suspense, are commonly used by public speakers and performers. However, what seems not well-known is how one masters the FP in speech. Some comedians like Bob Newhart, David Letterman, and actors such as James Stewart have achieved a rare mastery of the FP and other speech hesitations. I have not yet had a chance to hear Spalding Gray (I haven't lived in the US for nearly ten years), but I'll certainly try to listen to a sample of his speech as you recommend.
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