ISCA Archive

Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech
(DiSS'05)

Aix-en-Provence, France
September 10-12, 2005

DiSS'05

Hesitations and Repair in German

Kristy Beers Fägersten

Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken, Germany

The occurrence of pauses and hesitations in spontaneous speech has been shown to occur systematically, for example, "between sentences, after discourse markers and conjunctions and before accented content words." (Hansson [15]) This is certainly plausible in English, where pauses and hesitations can and often do occur before content words such as nominals, for example, "uh, there's a … man." (Chafe [8]) However, if hesitations are, in fact, evidence of "deciding what to talk about next," (Chafe [8]) then the complex grammatical system of German should render this pausing position precarious, since pre-modifiers must account for the gender of the nominals they modify.

In this paper, I present data to test the hypothesis that pre-nominal hesitation patterns in German are dissimilar to those in English. Hesitations in German will be shown, in fact, to occur within noun phrase units. Nevertheless, native speakers most often succeed in supplying a nominal which conforms to the gender indicated by the determiner or pre-modifier. Corrections, or repairs, of infelicitous pre-modifiers indicate that the speaker was unable to supply a nominal of the same gender which the choice of pre-modifier had committed him/her to. The frequency of such repairs is shown to vary according to task, with fewest repairs occurring in elicited speech which allows for linguistic freedom and therefore is most like spontaneous speech. The data sets indicate that among German native speakers, hesitations occurring before noun phrase units (pre-NPU hesitations) indicate deliberation of what to say, while hesitations within or before the head of the noun phrase (pre-NPH hesitations) indicate deliberation of how to say what has already been decided (cf. Chafe [8]).

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Fägersten, Kristy Beers (2005): "Hesitations and repair in German", In DiSS-2005, 71-76.