ERIC Number: EJ851504
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Nov
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
"Uh" and "Um" Revisited: Are They Interjections for Signaling Delay?
O'Connell, Daniel C.; Kowal, Sabine
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, v34 n6 p555-576 Nov 2005
Clark and Fox Tree (2002) have presented empirical evidence, based primarily on the London-Lund corpus (LL; Svartvik & Quirk, 1980), that the fillers "uh" and "um" are conventional English words that signal a speaker's intention to initiate a minor and a major delay, respectively. We present here empirical analyses of "uh" and "um" and of silent pauses (delays) immediately following them in six media interviews of Hillary Clinton. Our evidence indicates that "uh" and "um" cannot serve as signals of upcoming delay, let alone signal it differentially: In most cases, both "uh" and "um" were not followed by a silent pause, that is, there was no delay at all; the silent pauses that did occur after "um" were too short to be counted as major delays; finally, the distributions of durations of silent pauses after "uh" and "um" were almost entirely overlapping and could therefore not have served as reliable predictors for a listener. The discrepancies between Clark and Fox Tree's findings and ours are largely a consequence of the fact that their LL analyses reflect the perceptions of professional coders, whereas our data were analyzed by means of acoustic measurements with the PRAAT software (www.praat.org). A comparison of our findings with those of O'Connell, Kowal, and Ageneau (2005) did not corroborate the hypothesis of Clark and Fox Tree that "uh" and "um" are interjections: Fillers occurred typically in initial, interjections in medial positions; fillers did not constitute an integral turn by themselves, whereas interjections did; fillers never initiated cited speech, whereas interjections did; and fillers did not signal emotion, whereas interjections did. Clark and Fox Tree's analyses were embedded within a theory of ideal delivery that we find inappropriate for the explication of these phenomena.
Descriptors: Language Patterns, Linguistic Theory, Intention, Speech Communication, Cognitive Processes, English, Interviews, Perception
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
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