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...