Pauses and pause fillers in Mandarin monologue speech: The effects of sex and proficiency

Author(s): Jiahong Yuan, Xiaoying Xu, Wei Lai and Mark Liberman


In this study, we investigate the use of pauses and pause fillers in Mandarin Chinese. Our analysis is based on 267 spoken monologues from a Mandarin proficiency test. We identify two basic pause fillers in Mandarin: e and en. We find that males use more e than females, but there is no difference between them on the frequency of en. Therefore, the proportion of nasal-final pause fillers is higher in female than in male speakers, as was found in the studies of Germanic languages. Proficiency, on the other hand, does not affect the frequency of either e or en. With respect to the use of unfilled pauses, both sex and proficiency have a significant effect. Males and less proficient speakers use more medium and long, but not brief, pauses. Males tend to speak faster than females, they have a shorter en, but there is no difference between the two sexes on the duration of e. Un-proficient speakers produce shorter pause fillers, both e and en, than proficient ones. Finally, en is longer than e, it also precedes and follows a longer pause than e.