News

Great article in Atlas Obscura about filled pauses

I was recently contacted by Dan Nosowitz, a writer for the web site Atlas Obscura, requesting an interview about filled pauses. I was pleased to accommodate and we arranged a Skype chat a few days ago. He had already written several other articles on linguistic topics (e.g., Canadian 'eh’, Regional dialects), so it was an easy chat for me. We talked about many facets of filled pauses, sound, meaning, usage, acquisition, evolutionary origins, and more.

At the end of the conversation, I asked how soon he would publish an article and he said it would probably be a week later. To my surprise, about a day and a half later I noticed via Twitter that the article was published! If only I could turn out writing at that speed…

The ums and uhs of yesteryear

Edison phonograph; taken at Vendsyssel historiske Museum (Hjørring, Denmark) in 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki.The UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive is a wonderful new* resource that's being provided for free by the University of California, Santa Barbara Library. These are digitizations of audio extracted from phonograph cylinders produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries–in essence, the earliest audio recordings made by humans. While most of the recordings are musical in nature (probably intended to be listened to for enjoyment at the time), some contain speech and these are the ones I'm really interested in.  I've been browsing through the recordings little by little in order to get a sample of some of the earliest recordings of filled pauses and here are a few interesting ones.

Wait, what? A written text can be disfluent, too?

I recently read an article entitled, "Disfluency disrupts the confirmation bias" (Hernandez, I., & Preston J. L. (2013). Disfluency disrupts the confirmation bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 49(1), p. 178-182.) which is a rather interesting look at how confirmation bias—the tendency to give greater credibility to evidence that comports with one's already held beliefs—can be dampened by presenting information to people in a disfluent manner. I was interested in the article for obvious reasons (yay, disfluency!) and quickly added it to my Kindle for reading during my next walk to and from campus.  However, I got about one or two pages in before I realized something: The article is not about speech disfluency, but rather text disfluency.

What does "Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech" look like?

OK, this is purely for fun.  After getting all the information pages set up for the history of the Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech workshop series (here), I decided to extract the text from the proceedings (unfortunately not all, because for some workshops I only have image scans) and then created a few Wordles™ based on the text.  Here are a few results in slightly varying formats.

DiSS workshop history and the FPRC bibliography

Poster sessionI'm pleased to announce that I have now uploaded all of the Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech workshop paper citations (with abstracts) to the FPRC Bibliography.  You can browse the citations, read the abstracts and even download the whole historical list, if you like. Links are also provided to where you can download the actual papers for most of the workshops. Unfortunately, papers for a couple of the workshops are not yet available on-line, so I can't provide links to those, yet. But you can at least peruse the abstracts.  I will add download links as soon as it's possible.

Announcement: Opening of the FPRC bibliography

Gateway to learningThe slogan of the Filled Pause Research Center (see header at top of this page) is "Investigating um and uh and other hesitation phenomena". In keeping with this slogan, the FPRC will maintain a bibliography of books, articles, conference presentations and papers, and other documents related to the study of disfluency. The goal is to add citation information, abstracts, and links to where users can download original documents in a database that is indexed and fully searchable. Of course, at first, I expect there will be a number of gaps, some which are perhaps sizable.  Over time, though, I hope to close those gaps, perhaps with the kind and generous assistance of users of the bibliography.  I doubt it will ever be fully comprehensive, but if the point can be reached wherein this is the go-to place to begin one's research in disfluency-related phenomena, then I will be quite satisfied.

Utterance fluency and perceptual fluency in L2 @ ICPhS 2015

After DiSS at Edinburgh, I took a train ride west one hour to Glasgow to take part in the International Congress for Phonetics Sciences (ICPhS). This was an extremely well-organized conference from start to finish.  The organizers did a good job of keeping everyone informed in advance of the conference as well as choosing a highly competent convention center for the venue:  Even when it became apparent that rooms were exceeding capacity, the organizers and convention center made rapid accommodations. That resulted in some room changes for some presentations, but convention center staff were well-placed and well-informed so that it wasn't at all difficult to find the correct room. Thanks to the organizers!

Talking about um versus uh at DiSS in Edinburgh

I recently returned from Scotland where I attended the Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech (DiSS) conference at University of Edinburgh.  First, though, a word about Edinburgh: What a lovely city! I arrived at Edinburgh in the early afternoon of my first day, so I had a few hours to walk around town. The central park was filled with families enjoying the summer weather (and the ongoing "Fringe" festival). Old town was fantastic, and the view of Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill was fantastic. I hope I get a chance to go back there soon!

Edinburgh, Scotland - Arthur's Seat

Psycholinguistics Lab Group at University of Michigan

[Note: This post was published in August 2015 but has been dated in order to reflect the actual timing of the events described here.]

University of Michigan - Hill Auditorium and bell towerIn March 2015, I had the opportunity to go to the US and visit my home state of Michigan to gather some native English speaker data for the CCHP. It was very good, very productive trip. While there, thanks to the efforts of Lorenzo García-Amaya and Nick Henriksen at the University of Michigan, I also had the opportunity to talk about the corpus to the Psycholinguistics Lab Group there.

Presenting about a new java application for second language fluency development

[Note: This post was published in August 2015 but has been dated in order to reflect the actual timing of the events described here.]

I had a really great winter vacation: I spent most of it coding! All right, so that's a bit nerdy, but I finally set myself down to work on a project I'd been thinking about for several years. The basic idea is that I've been wanting to see an application that gives some kind of real-time feedback to a second language learner while they are speaking. There are many applications that can give latent feedback, some as early as moments after a pre-set sentence is spoken. But I can't find any that give immediate feedback (or nearly immediate). Of course, some ideas for using speech recognition technology for second language speech practice are good and the feedback is close to real-time (often 1-2 seconds latency). But I have wanted to see about the possibility of immediate feedback that would be comparable to the kind of audiovisual feedback one would get from an interlocutor during a face-to-face conversation.