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The perception of hesitation in spontaneous speech

James G. Martin and Winifred Strange

The issue in this paper was whether attending to acoustic elements and to message elements in a speech signal were compatible operations.  In four experiements Ss listened for pauses and other hesitation phenomena in spontaneous speech; in three the task was reproduction of heard speech to include hesitations; in one the task was simply the marking of heard hesitations on transcripts.  Experimental variables were instructions, degree of "ungrammaticality" of hesitations in speech inputs, time interval between listening and reproduction, and task manipulations along a continuum between simple hesitation detection and hesitation detection plus simultaneous speech decoding.  Results were: (1) In all experiments Ss displaced within-constituent hesitations to constituent boundaries, suggesting a grammatical organization between input and output.  (2) Instructional set to reproduce hesitations increased hesitations and words but at the expense of per cent words correct, suggesting that attending to acoustic elements such as hesitations was an interfering task during speech decoding.  (3) The hesitaiton shift persisted in the hesitation-marking task when simultaneous speech decoding was required by the nature of the task, indicating that speaking (encoding) characteristics may not completely account for the shift.  (4) The distribution of hesitation marking errors toward grammatical organization seemed to require an account in terms of perceptual processes during listening.
Martin, J. & W. Strange 1968 The perception of hesitation in spontaneous speech. In Perception and Psychophysics 3/6: 427-438.

Key points relevant to the study of filled pauses


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