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Cognition. 2002 May;84(1):73-111.

Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking.

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1
Department of Psychology, Building 420, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2130, USA. herb@psych.stanford.edu

Abstract

The proposal examined here is that speakers use uh and um to announce that they are initiating what they expect to be a minor (uh), or major (um), delay in speaking. Speakers can use these announcements in turn to implicate, for example, that they are searching for a word, are deciding what to say next, want to keep the floor, or want to cede the floor. Evidence for the proposal comes from several large corpora of spontaneous speech. The evidence shows that speakers monitor their speech plans for upcoming delays worthy of comment. When they discover such a delay, they formulate where and how to suspend speaking, which item to produce (uh or um), whether to attach it as a clitic onto the previous word (as in "and-uh"), and whether to prolong it. The argument is that uh and um are conventional English words, and speakers plan for, formulate, and produce them just as they would any word.

PMID:
12062148
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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