filled pause

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

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.

Filled pauses in Japanese, Chinese, and English @ Academia Sinica

[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 went to Taiwan in December 2014 where I had the opportunity to join in a workshop on the cross-linguistic study of filled pauses. This was actually connected to a research project I'm engaged in that's being led by Kikuo Maekawa at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) in Tokyo. The project is aiming to formalize a typology of filled pauses in Japanese and I'm part of the project to bring in a comparison to English filled pauses. We met in Taiwan with a collaborator there (who brings in a comparison to Chinese filled pauses) to further the research plan and also gave a workshop at the Academia Sinica in Taipei.

Windows to the Mind Research Symposium

My department, the Center for English Language Education (CELESE) at Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering recently organized our own research symposium with the theme, "Windows to the Mind". The main event was an open lecture by Dr. Margaret Thomas of Boston College. She talked about her research on kuusho (空書), or the habit most Japanese speakers have of writing kanji characters in the air or on one's palm (also observed in Chinese speakers and others). She talked about several experiments she has done to explore the practice and what implications they have for larger issues of language and cognition. It was a fascinating lecture and I would definitely recommend interested people to follow her work on this. It's a topic that is incredibly prevalent in Japan, yet largely ignored (perhaps because it is so prevalent).

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