The eighth iteration of DiSS!
Time for DiSS again! In case you don't know, DiSS stands for Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech, the workshop series that has taken place every couple of years or so since 1999. This is probably my favorite conference to attend because, for me, it's the perfect convergence of researchers and topics in my area of interest: filled pauses and related disfluency phenomena.
This year was the eighth iteration of the DiSS workshop series and was organized by Robin Lickley and Robert Eklund—who both might fairly be called the "godfathers" of the DiSS series. It was held in Stockholm, at the the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in fact the same location where the sixth DiSS iteration was held in 2013.
Unfortunately, the attendance was a little smaller than usual. I think this was likely because the (Dis)Fluency event in Belgium (which I also attended) about half a year earlier may have attracted some people who might otherwise have presented at DiSS. Nevertheless, it was a good gathering of many of the same faces that often attend DiSS (Kikuo Maekawa, Malte Belze, Vered Silber-Varod, Emer Gilmartin, Sieb Nooteboom) as well as some new faces (including Loulou Kosmala, who I met at the (Dis)Fluency event and encouraged to attend DiSS).
The plenary was given by Jens Allwood, who gave a challenging talk on the nature of disfluencies. In his view, the description or characterization of the various phenomena that are typically studied at DiSS as dis_fluencies is not correct. Rather, he argues that all of these phenomena are simply a part of how speakers manage their _fluency: Hence, the title of his talk: Fluency or disfluency? It is an interesting point of view and one that is not uncommon. Sandra Götz (a past attendant at DiSS events, though unable to join this time) describes a similar view of fluency phenomena and even refers to the various phenomena as fluencemes.
In my talk, I focused on an analysis of the silent and filled pauses in the Crosslinguistic Corpus of Hesitation Phenomena (CCHP), particularly with respect to utterance and clause boundaries and in first versus second language speech (in CCHP that means native Japanese vs. English). Some of the results are pretty straightforward and easily predictable: speakers pause longer at major (utterance) than minor (clause) boundaries and they use more silent pauses than filled pauses at boundaries overall.
The one somewhat surprising result, however, was that the speakers' filled pause durations do not vary by location. That is, they seem to use filled pauses with a fixed duration. This could be related to the moraic timing nature of Japanese, which they rely on even when speaking in English.
Of course, as usual, there were many great talks. As usual, Sieb Nooteboom and Hugo Quené (only the former attended) presented a lucid hypothesis-driven and validated study of self-monitoring, and Vered Silber-Varod's talk on silences also generated some interesting discussion. Simon Betz, Robert Eklund, and Petra Wagner's talk on prolongations also generated some good discussion. Prolongations are definitely a topic that needs deeper study. Robert has been saying so since the early 2000s, but methodological difficulties in studying them remain even now. This would be a great research project for a doctoral dissertation.
Anyway, the next DiSS iteration will likely be two years from now, but the location has not been confirmed yet. Still, I will definitely put it on my must-do list and organize the next couple of years so that I can be sure to join in.
[Note: This post was written in August, 2020. However, in order to preserve the chronology of the blog, it has been dated to reflect when the described events actually took place.]