As fully functional human beings, most of us live in a society and interact with other people verbally, we talk to people in daily basis in a humane way, that means most of us think while we are talking, and that occurs pauses in tones, also known as disfluencies. However, in most cases, we consider it as a perfectly normal thing and we barely gave any second thoughts about how disfluencies happened and what does it imply in our language system and psychological behavior.
This week, I have read two articles about words in our language. According to Kidd (2011, to master a language, it is crucial to be able to indicate or predict the disfluencies (i.e. uh, um) in a sentence when having a conversation, by doing that, we can avoid the ambiguity in languages and understand its intention more clearly under different context and social atmospheres. When we are talking, disfluencies usually happen after a certain name of places and people, as well as when people trying to use some “big” words which they are not familiar with nor often use. Kidd conducted an experiment to find out if young children are able to distinguish and utilize the disfluencies when encountering verbal conversations. The participants are young children from age 2 to 8. In the experiment, young children were shown 32 items as stimulation accompanying with a conversations including the name of those items, the experiment carried out twice, in the first time, the 32 items were described by sentences without disfluencies. At the second time, disfluencies were included in each sentences when describing the items. The result shows that children are capable of utilizing and predicting the items at age 2. This experiment emphasized the significance of disfluencies in our language. Additionally, I am surprised by how smart the babies actually are.
Another article is written by Thompson(2005), it suggests that “Tip of the Fingers” phenomenon (TOF) is when American Sign Language(ASL) speakers seem to have some relative information about the word they tried to spell out by gestures(fingers) but have difficulty withdrawing them from their memories, , it can be considered as the equivalence of “Tip of the Tongues” phenomenon in verbal language which is when verbal language speakers positively think they know certain words but have trouble saying them (withdrawing it from their memories). TOFs and TOTs have some attributions in common; they both happen frequently before proper names, which is very similar to disfluencies in verbal language. Secondly, they can both be resolved either spontaneously or when the target information onsets. Thus, the research came to a conclusion that languages have a universal processing pattern. (Thompson, 2005)
I think these two articles are very interesting since I have never deeply considered such daily normal phenomenon in my life. However, I think there is a limitation in Thompson’s experiment; ASL is based on English language, so the result of the experiment does not surprise me very much, what if the sign language part was replaced by other sign language spoken in other countries or based on other type of verbal languages?
Kidd, C., White, K.S., & Aslin, R.N. (2011). Toddlers use speech disfluencies to predict speakers’ referential intentions. Developmental Science, 14, 925–934.
Thompson, R., Emmory, K., & Gollan, T.H. (2005). “Tip of the fingers” experiences by deaf signers. Psychological Science, 16, 856–860.