Date of Award
Master of Arts
Pausing effects how well listeners understand and attend to meaning in discourse. This study investigates the effects of three different pause treatments (irregular placement, increased frequency, and longer length) on comprehensibility ratings. Varonis and Gass (1982) found that a complex interaction of factors affected comprehensibility ratings. These included pronunciation, grammar, familiarity and fluency. While many of these features have been investigated (Anderson-Hsieh, Johnson, & Koehler, 1992; Derwing & Munro, 1997; Hahn, 2004; Isaacs & Trofimovich, 2012; Kang, 2010; Munro & Derwing, 1995), pausing has received little attention. In this study, an extended NNS speech sample with native-like pausing was manipulated, creating three experimental recordings, one with irregularly placed pauses, one with increased pause frequency, and one with longer pauses. Forty-three undergraduates in four different class groups listened to each of the pause treatments and rated them for comprehensibility. In addition to comprehensibility measures, participants also rated each treatment for fluency based on Griffiths' (1991) proposition that pausing is often tied to fluency. This allowed for a comparison of the effects of pausing on comprehensibility to those on fluency. Additionally, this study investigated the strength of Kang's (2010) revised comprehensibility instrument. The results showed that irregular pause placement was the greatest detriment to comprehensibility, followed by pause frequency. These results may be explained by the psycholinguistic model of language processing which assumes we process language in chunks. When NNSs pause irregularly, NS listeners must process each word individually to make meaning instead of processing the chunk through expected phrasing. This, in turn, causes lower comprehensibility ratings. These results advocate for the teaching of formulaic language in the ESL/EFL classroom so that attention to pause placement in conjunction with work on fluency facilitates more comprehensible speech.
Rebecca M. Bae
Bae, Rebecca M., "The effects of pausing on comprehensibility" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 14324.