Thursday, February 19, 1998 at 23:21:21
Absolutely fascinating. I note that you refer to spontaneous speech but have you given thought to deliberate and studied pauses? I am a "professional public speaker" and I manipulate pauses (just about all of the varieties which you've described) for various kinds of emphases. It has worked so effectively for me that I must be incorporating that style in my casual speech because my wife insists that she hears it (increasingly) in all my conversation. Frightening isn't it?
I have often noticed how various entertainers use filled pauses to achieve certain effects. Art Carney's Norton (on "the Honeymooners") paused frequently in a manner that seemed to suggest his relative witlessness. Alternately, Bob Newhart's highly disfluent characters (who are certainly not witless) come off as very natural. And I still wonder whether part of what made Jimmy Stewart a silver screen legend was his stammering (unlike so many of classical contemporaries).
In general, I think I would never advise the average public speaker to consciously use pauses in their prepared speech. In this respect I agree with Toastmasters International (who use 'ah' counters during the practice sessions). However, experienced public speakers can no doubt achieve certain effects with them as you have pointed out. I got an e-mail message from a trial lawyer saying she uses pauses in her oral arguments to make it sound "more conversational and...develop ethos." I would love to hear specific examples of how you manipulate pauses and to what ends.
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