DiSS-LPSS Joint Workshop 2010
The 5th Workshop on Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech
Research on spoken language comprehension has challenged the traditional view that
disfluencies are mere performance
errors that disrupt comprehension. By now, there is a range of evidence that disfluencies
often facilitate language
comprehension by supporting predictive inferences about upcoming speech. What is less
well-understood is the exact
nature of this benefit. How do listeners derive meaning from disfluency? To what extent
are the benefits of hearing a
disfluency dependent on potentially "signaled" elements, such as the fillers um and uh,
versus more symptomatic
elements, such as the length of a silent pause? Do disfluencies benefit comprehension
through low-level mechanisms
such as priming, or do they call upon more high-level inferences? How sensitive are
listeners to different possible
sources of disfluency?
In this talk, I will review results from a research program investigating the nature and processing of utterance-initial disfluencies during referential communication. In these studies, the form of a speaker's disfluency was experimentally manipulated to discern its impact on the listener. The results generally support the view that the primary meaning of disfluencies is metacommunicative : a disfluency signals that the speaker is experiencing trouble, and the form of the disfluency provides information about the severity of the trouble. The impact of a disfluency on listeners is to cause them to attend to the speaker and to attempt to diagnose the cause of the trouble. Moreover, listeners appear to do this in a flexible and largely speaker-specific, rather than "egocentric", manner. This model gives good coverage of the phenomena, and suggests important avenues for future investigation.
Bibliographic reference. Barr, Dale (2010): "Disfluency as metacommunication", In DiSS-LPSS-2010, 2.