Filled pauses as markers of discourse structure

M.G.J. Swerts

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    122 Citations (Scopus)


    This study aims to test whether filled pauses (FPs) may highlight discourse structure. This question is tackled from the perspectives of both the speaker and the listener. More specifically, it is first investigated whether FPs are more typical in the vicinity of major discourse boundaries. Secondly, FPs are analyzed acoustically, to check whether those occurring at major discourse boundaries are segmentally and prosodically different from those at shallower breaks. Analyses of twelve spontaneous monologues (Dutch) show that phrases following major discourse boundaries more often contain FPs. Additionally, FPs after stronger breaks tend to occur phrase-initially, whereas the majority of the FPs after weak boundaries are in phrase-internal position. Also, acoustic observations reveal that FPs at major discourse boundaries are both segmentally and prosodically distinct. They also differ with respect to the distribution of neighbouring silent pauses. Finally, a general linear model reveals that discourse structure can to some extent be predicted from characteristics of the FPs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)485-496
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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