Filled Pause
Research Center

Filled Pause
Research Center

Filled Pause
Research Center

Investigating 'um' and 'uh' and other hesitation phenomena

Investigating 'um' and 'uh' and other hesitation phenomena

Investigating 'um' and 'uh' and other hesitation phenomena

This site is devoted to disseminating information about filled pauses and related phenomena in communication. Here, you can find academic information about these topics, musings on this and sundry other things as well as links to various resources that I've created that may elucidate why, how, and when people say 'um'.


News about the FPRC, research efforts, and other relevant stuff


Thoughts about hesitation phenomena and related topics


Info about and access to the Corpus of Hesitation Phenomena


A bibliography of related research articles and resources


Info about the Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech workshops

What's the influence of a high um-rate?

Nicholas Christenfeld, in his great 1995 paper, Does it hurt to say um?, ended the paper with the conclusion that the answer to his titular question is no, but if the listener notices the speaker's ums, then that could lead to deleterious effects. He exhorts speakers to make sure that the audience attends to content more so than form. I suppose the corollary of that is that if one uses too many ums in a short period of time, there's a greater chance the listener's attention may be drawn to them and hence lead to the undesirable effects. One question I have here, though, is why does that lead to a problem? One hypothesis could be that by noticing the ums, listeners will begin to focus on them and be irritated by them, leading to the undesirable reaction. However, this presupposes that people are actually irritated by the disfluencies. While, indeed, there are some pedant-types who just can't stand to hear an um, I actually suspect that this is just a tiny (but noisy!) proportion of the population. I suspect most people just really aren't that bothered by it....

What does a disfluency profile look like?

People vary widely in the manner in which disfluency appears in their speech. When it comes to filled pauses alone, there are people who use exclusively uh, others who use only um, and still others who seem to mix it up in some way. Some will use them only between utterances, while others (like me) will use them pretty much anywhere. There are some for whom the filled pauses are only long, drawn out articulations, and then there are others (again, like me) who use some filled pauses so quickly that the only way one would notice them is by listening to a recording afterward....

What's the difference between real-time and latent fluency detection?

I have been pushing the uniqueness of the Fluidity application as its capability to detect fluency features in real-time, maintain a constantly updating set of measurements, and adapt the operation of the application accordingly. This is in contrast to most applications in which fluency measurement takes place on a completed speech sample; that is, after the speaker has finished. Besides the technical differences between these two, is there any practical difference either to speakers or to listeners/computers related to this?...

Recently added bibliography items

Formant-based technique for automatic filled-pause detection in spontaneous spoken english
Audhkhasi, Kartik and Kandhway, Kundan and Deshmukh, Om. D. and Verma, Ashish
Theories of monitoring and the timing of repairs in spontaneous speech
Blackmer, Elizabeth R. and Mitton, Janet L.
Paraverbal indicators of deception: a meta-analytic synthesis
Sporer, Siegfried Ludwig and Schwandt, Barbara
Disfluency: Interrupting speech and gesture
Seyfeddinipur, Mandana
Semantic determinants of pauses
O'Connell, Daniel and Kowal, Sabine and Hörmann, Hans

View the whole FPRC bibliography list here.