This article describes and discusses the appearance and increasing frequency of uh, um and er in American English journalistic prose from the 1960s to the early 2000s as part of the colloquialization of the language. The three variants uh, um and er are shown to have different uses in writing than in speech; in writing they can be shown to qualify as words, while their status in speech appears to be on a cline of wordhood. In writing, they belong to the class of stance adverbs, serving metalinguistic purposes. Two types are distinguished, depending on sentence placement: in initial position, uh, um and er are attitude adverbs and in medial position, they are style adverbs. Although er is dispreferred in initial position and preferred for correction of previously used words, every variant can be used for all discourse-pragmatic functions, which supports classifying them as one lexeme.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.