The Intentionality of Disfluency: Findings from Feedback and Timing


This paper addresses the causes of disfluency. Disfluency has been described as a strategic device for intentionally signalling to an interlocutor that the speaker is committed to an utterance under construction [14, 21]. It is also described as an automatic effect of cognitive burdens, particularly of managing speech production during other tasks [6]. To assess these claims, we used a version of the map task [1, 11] and tested 24 normal adult subjects in a baseline untimed monologue condition against conditions adding either feedback in the form of an indication of a supposed listener’s gaze, or time-pressure, or both. Both feedback and timepressure affected the nature of the speaker’s performance overall. Disfluency rate increased when feedback was available, as the strategic view predicts, but only deletion disfluencies showed a significant effect of this manipulation. Both the nature of the deletion disfluencies in the current task and of the information which the speaker would need to acquire in order to use them appropriately suggest ways of refining the strategic view of disfluency. 1

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