Saturday, March 14, 1998 at 11:15:24
I work with a lot of Asian students...and your ideas here
help me reframe the rather annoying repetitive "uh" in their seech as filled
pauses that serve a linguistic function. This is great stuff!
By the way, we have a few things in common. I'm also a dissertator in English (lit), and my dad was also a professor--although he taught public speaking, and his own speech was impeccable. I, on the otherhand, was told after my first teaching observation that I used the term "okay" 87 times in 50 minutes. Guess I just can't pause to let the students think without filling in!
For one of my Master's courses I did a discourse analysis of one of my own lectures. When I was transcribing my own speech I just couldn't believe how many times I used FPs, "okay", and so on. It was so depressing! However, this might make you feel better: I did find that from a discourse point of view, many of these okays served an important discourse function: they framed a block of discourse. That is, an "okay" (with falling pitch) preceded every distinct point I made in my lecture. Further, each point was dotted with rising-pitch okays which seemed to say to students "are you following me so far?" and/or "there's still more to the current point". I also found that before nominating a student to answer a question I would often use a FP as if to indicate, "any of you might be chosen to answer this question so get ready..." Although such hesitations may be irritating to some, they may in fact serve a useful communicative purpose.
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