4th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3-6, 1996

Filled Pauses as Markers of Discourse Structure

Marc Swerts (1), Anne Wichmann (2), Robbert-Jan Beun (1)

(1) Institute for Perception Research (IPO), Eindhoven, The Netherlands
(2) University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

This study aims to test quantitatively whether filled pauses (FPs) may highlight discourse structure. More specifically, it is first investigated whether FPs are more typical in the vicinity of major discourse boundaries. Secondly, the FPs are analyzed acoustically, to check whether those occurring at major discourse boundaries are segmentally and prosodically different from those at shallower breaks. Analyses of twelve spontaneous monologues (Dutch) show that phrases following major discourse boundaries more often contain FPs. Additionally, FPs after stronger breaks tend to occur phrase-initially, whereas the majority of the FPs after weak boundaries are in phrase-internal position. Also, acoustic observations reveal that FPs at major discourse boundaries are both segmentally and prosodically distinct. They also differ with respect to the distribution of neighbouring silent pauses.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Swerts, Marc / Wichmann, Anne / Beun, Robbert-Jan (1996): "Filled pauses as markers of discourse structure", In ICSLP-1996, 1033-1036.