Wednesday, March 18, 1998 at 05:14:12
Hey, it was interesting! As a psychiatric research coordinator, one of the symptoms I look for in some of my patients are excessive pauses which are not "filled". Some of these pauses are very long (in excess of 30 seconds). In the beginning it was difficult, almost painful, to allow the patient to resolve the pause alone.
Silences of just 5 seconds can seem awfully unbearable at times. Thirty seconds would seem an eternity. From my own observations and from the feedback I'm getting it seems clear that silence has very significant sociolinguistic implications for English speakers. However, I think the degree of discomfort felt by such silent stretches differs from culture to culture. Here in Japan, where I live, I find interlocutors are willing to put up with much longer silences than I am. It might be very interesting to do a cross-cultural study of the degree of discomfort felt by such silences and then further to see what correlation there might be such attitudes and predominant hesitation strategies with each linguistic group.
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