Investigating individual pause profiles through the use of a comparable NL1/IL corpus

Hege Larsson Aas, Hedmark University College

Tuesday 24 November at 14:15 in NT 706

This talk presents the results of a study exploring the use of unfilled pauses in spoken texts by Norwegian non-native speakers of English. It also presents a small corpus currently under compilation that will allow for contrastive analyses between data from a speaker’s native- (NL1) and interlanguage (IL) production. The study addresses the following research question: Are there differences between the pause profiles of individuals within an IL group that can be attributed to conventions in their NL1 or to individual variation?

The need for contrastive analyses including native language data from interlanguage speakers is increasingly acknowledged (Chambers, 1997; Segalowitz, 2010), but few learner corpora have been compiled with such an NL1 baseline in mind. From the perspective of fluency research, Segalowitz (2010) observes that individual differences “have provided an unwanted source of noise that may have masked important L2 fluency phenomena” (p. 35). Corpora containing native speech from IL informants make it possible to partly filter out this noise, and allow us to record patterns that are “common to both languages and hence is not specific to the L2” (ibid., p. 36). NL1 data is also included in Gilquin’s (2008) model of transfer, where this contrast is seen as a key to detecting cross-linguistic influence on a group level: “Only if one can establish a similarity between the learner’s behaviour in IL and NL1 does the presence of transfer seem plausible enough” (p. 13). This study applies the contrastive approach to the paralinguistic phenomenon of pausing, and explores the suggestion made by Raupach (1980) that “speakers have a strong inclination to transfer their pause profile from L1 to L2 performance” (p. 270).

Results from a pilot analysis of nine IL samples from the (forthcoming) Norwegian component of the Louvain Database of spoken English Interlanguage (LINDSEI) (Gilquin, De Cock, & Granger, 2010) showed that the interlanguage speakers spent more time pausing than their target native language (NL2) peers, and differences in IL and NL2 pausing patterns are also found in other studies using similar data (e.g. Götz, 2013). This potential “fluency gap” (Segalowitz, 2010) is often attributed to the cognitive demands of speaking in an L2, which may lead to greater hesitation even in the speech of highly proficient non-native speakers. However, a speaker’s pausing behaviour can also be related to her general cognitive capacities (e.g. working memory) (ibid.), individual preferences (Fillmore, 1979), or language-specific conventions governing the paralinguistic aspects of speech (Derwing, Munro, Thomson, & Rossiter, 2009; Riazantseva, 2001). Cross-linguistic analyses including NL1 data are thus needed to detect alternative explanations for such pausing patterns.

By describing individual pause profiles in both NL1 and IL, the study aims to contribute to our understanding of this aspect of fluency both generally and in relation to the particular interlanguage group. It also forms the basis for qualitative research into the use and functions of unfilled pauses in interlanguage.


Chambers, F. (1997). What do we mean by fluency? System, 25(4), 535-544.

Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., Thomson, R. I., & Rossiter, M. J. (2009). The relationship between L1 fluency and L2 fluency development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31(4), 533-557.

Fillmore, C. J. (1979). On Fluency. In C. J. Fillmore, D. Kempler & W. S.-Y. Wang (Eds.), Individual Differences in Language Ability and Language Behaviour (pp. 85-101). New York: Academic Press.

Gilquin, G. (2008). Combining contrastive and interlanguage analysis to apprehend transfer. Detection, explanation, evaluation. In G. Gilquin, S. Papp & M. B. Díez-Bedmar (Eds.), Linking up contrastive and learner corpus research (pp. 3-33).

Gilquin, G., De Cock, S., & Granger, S. (2010). Louvain International Database of Spoken English Interlanguage. Handbook and CD-ROM. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.

Götz, S. (2013). Fluency in native and nonnative English speech. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Raupach, M. (1980). Temporal variables in first and second language speech production. In H. W. Dechert & M. Raupach (Eds.), Temporal Variables in Speech. Studies in Honour of Frieda Goldman-Eisler (pp. 263-270). The Hague: Mouton Publishers.

Riazantseva, A. (2001). Second language proficiency and pausing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 497-526.

Segalowitz, N. (2010). Cognitive bases of second language fluency. New York: Routledge.

Publisert 16. nov. 2015 09:19