On the lexical status of filled pauses: Seeing 'uh' and 'um' as words

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Filled pauses (FPs: e.g., English uh/um, Japanese e-(to)) occur frequently in everyday communication. However, the exact linguistic status of FPs has been the subject of some debate. Some researchers have argued that FPs are words, with the same lexical status as such interjections as well or oh (Clark and Fox Tree 2002), or at least word-like in that they can be used in a controlled fashion (Villar et al 2012). However, others have argued that the evidence is inconclusive and that FPs can be regarded as resulting automatically from cognitive processes (Corley and Stewart 2008). I argue that FPs are words based on facts showing the systematic and distinctive use of FPs in speech corpora (Kjellmer, 2003), and particularly in a corpus of blog writings (Rose 2011). Evidence from these corpora show that FPs are used, among other ways, to highlight unexpected or unusual words and phrases (e.g., "Jan Wenner's famous pub has gone, um, gaga for [Lady] Gaga.").


Poster presentation at International Workshop on Language Production (IWOLP); New York University, New York City, USA