Sunday, April 20, 2008

Filling column inches

No, not another spam email about "manhood enhancement", but a quick piece about fillers. You know, like...err fillers yeah? Ha ha, can you see what I did there? Sorry...

Anyway, The Daily Telegraph (which is normally really good on language stories) has this terrible non-story about how English language speakers use loads of fillers and how this reflects a lack of care for our language. According to Phillip Hodson, speech expert and Fellow for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (who may have been selectively quoted, it has to be said):

It seems to me that the Anglo Saxon countries - Britain and America - are the worst for using these filler words to pad out our conversations. I think it is because unlike other countries like France we do not protect our language. There is little teaching of best practice. Some say that fillers are a sign of intellect, used to consider what to say next. However, research shows that if your speech is full of padding, you’re harder to understand, which makes listeners tend to tune out.

Erm, not exactly true though is it? Fillers are just normal parts of our spoken language; we use them as a form of punctuation for the most part, and it's not really true that we associate fillers with padding and a lack of clarity. In fact, this piece of research suggests that fillers, hedges and indirect constructions actually make us more convincing in some situations, more human and likeable even.

Useful for:
ENA3 - Interacting Through Language

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