Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech (DiSS'01)

August 29-31, 2001
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Filled Pauses and Their Status in the Mental Lexicon

Richard Shillcock (1), Simon Kirby (1), Scott McDonald (1), and Chris Brew (2)

(1) University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
(2)Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

We report a study of the relationship between form and meaning in the most frequent monosyllabic words in the lexicon of English. There is a small but significant correlation between the phonological distance and the semantic distance between each pair of words. To this extent, words that have similar meanings tend to sound similar. Words differ as to the size of this meaning-form correlation in their relationship with all of the other words. When the words are ranked according to the size of this correlation we find that the words which appear towards the top of the ranking are the communicatively important words. When we look at the position in the ranking of the speech editing terms, such as er, oh and um, we find that they are at the very top of the ranking. We argue that this position reflects the communicative importance of these items, and that it therefore makes sense to treat them as a proper part of the mental lexicon.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Shillcock, Richard / Kirby, Simon / McDonald, Scott / Brew, Chris (2001): "Filled pauses and their status in the mental lexicon", In DISS'01, 53-56.