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Uh, bueno, em … : Filled pauses as a site of contact-induced change in Boston Spanish

  • Daniel Erker (a1) and Joanna Bruso (a1)

There is mounting evidence that the filled pauses that pervade spontaneous speech constitute a rich site of linguistic inquiry. The present study uses a comparative variationist method to explore possible effects of language contact on pause behavior, examining 3810 filled pauses produced by 24 Spanish-speaking residents of Boston, Massachusetts. Interspeaker differences in pause behavior correlate with intensity of contact. Participants who have lived in the United States for a larger fraction of their lives, who use English more frequently, and who do so more proficiently fill pauses differently when speaking Spanish than do those who have spent less time in the contact setting and whose English skills and usage are more restricted. Results show that a greater degree of contact corresponds to increased use of centralized vowels in phonologically filled pauses (i.e., more frequent use of [a(m)] and [ə(m)] at the expense of [e(m)]). This pattern is interpreted as evidence of contact-induced change.

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