Breath and non-breath pauses in fluent and disfluent phases of German and French L1 and L2 read speech

Author(s): Juergen Trouvain, Camille Fauth and Bernd Möbius

Abstract

In this study we examined the read speech of native and non-native speakers with respect to pausing details of audible breathing, particularly in disfluent phases. 20 German and 20 French native speakers read the same narrative text in their native (L1) and in their non-native language (L2). Some ex¬pected results were confirmed: more frequent pauses and more frequent disfluencies in L2, as well as longer duration of pauses filled with breath noise than those without. However, the analysis also reveals that in fluent phases the vast majority of pauses contains audible inhalation - which requires a re¬inter¬pretation of the terms "unfilled" and "silent" pauses. Most disfluent phases are marked by genuinely silent pauses (i.e. without breathing noises), which are also shorter than those in fluent phases. So-called "filled pauses" are virtually not present. Surprisingly, French speakers use more but shorter pauses than the Germans as an L2 pausing strategy. The results suggest that the widely assumed concept of pauses in phonetics, prosody and fluency research should be renewed and enriched with phonetic detail that goes beyond "silent" vs. "filled" pauses in order to get a better understanding of the prosodic make-up of fluent and less fluent phases in speech.

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