Journal of Germanic Linguistics


Hesitation Markers in English, German, and Dutch

Esther de Leeuw a1c1
a1 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh


This study reports on a number of highly significant differences found between English, German, and Dutch hesitation markers. English and German native speakers used significantly more vocalic-nasal hesitation markers than Dutch native speakers, who used predominantly vocalic hesitation markers. English hesitation markers occurred most frequently when preceded by silence and followed by a lexical item, or when surrounded by silence. German and Dutch hesitation markers occurred most frequently surrounded by lexical items. In Dutch, vocalic-nasal hesitation markers dominated only when surrounded by silence. Vocalic-nasal hesitation markers dominated in all positions in English and German, although in the former language this was more salient than in the latter. Nasal hesitation markers were used significantly more frequently in German than in English or Dutch. In addition to overall language trends, speaker-specific differences, especially within German and Dutch, were observed. These results raise questions in terms of the symptom versus signal hypotheses regarding the function of hesitation markers. a

c1 Speech Science Research Centre, Queen Margaret University, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Clerwood Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 8TS, United Kingdom, []


a I am indebted to Angelika Braun and Jens-Peter Köster for their supervision at the University of Trier. I am also thankful to Monika Schmid and Wim Peeters in the Netherlands and to Eva Gossner in England for their organizational help. Finally, I am very grateful to the participants, and to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. All inadequacies in this article remain my responsibility.