• Daniel C. O’Connell
  • Sabine Kowal
Part of the Cognition and Language: A Series in Psycholinguistics book series (CALS)

Chapter Prospectus

Fillers such as uh and um are themselves hesitations, and they sometimes announce new material and/or planning difficulty. They are most characteristic of spontaneous spoken discourse, but are seldom found in written discourse. Hence, to know about their form and function is important for any theory of spontaneous spoken discourse. For all their formal simplicity, they have occasioned much controversy and confusion. They may or may not be acknowledged by lexicographers as words in a given language. In American English, uh and um serve as the most common fillers, in British English er, and in German äh. Other syllables are eligible to serve as fillers (e.g., hm), but across the board, the type/token ratio of various types of fillers is not high.

The Remarkably Versatile Schwa

There is a very simple, weak sound that has had a most interesting career to date in the English language. Defined in Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary(11th ed., 2003, p. 1111) as “an...


English Word False Start Indefinite Article Short Pause Language Expert 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel C. O’Connell
    • 1
  • Sabine Kowal
    • 2
  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Technische Universität Institut für Sprache und KommunikationGermany

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