Saturday, March 21, 1998 at 03:41:08
I am a City Clerk and one of my duties is to take minutes at City Council and other board meetings. Taking minutes makes me very aware of people's speech patterns. The chairman of one of the boards uses the phrase "in reference to" repeatedly instead of some other more common pause. Have you run across this usage before?
I can imagine your job makes you very aware of the various ways that individuals speak. I also imagine that after a while you begin to get to know certain people's speech patterns so well, you can often predict what they are going to say, or at least how they are going to say it. The example you mention, using "in reference to" is not one I have heard before. However, it does not surprise me as people develop very unique methods of achieving hesitation in their speech. Does this chairman always use it in a 'meaningless' way: that is, is the phrase used irrespective of its normal sense? That is where I (and other pause researchers) draw the line between what is a lexicalized filled pause and what is part of the message itself.
I believe the chairman does use "in reference to" properly, so this usage will not be of interest to you in your studies. Thank you, though, for answering my e-mail.
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