Gaze patterns and fillers : Empirical data on the difference between Dutch ‘euh’ and ‘euhm’

Annelies Jehoul
KU Leuven, Belgium

Geert Brône
KU Leuven, Belgium

Kurt Feyaerts
KU Leuven, Belgium

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Ingår i: Proceedings of the 4th European and 7th Nordic Symposium on Multimodal Communication (MMSYM 2016), Copenhagen, 29-30 September 2016

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 141:7, s. 43-50

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Publicerad: 2017-09-21

ISBN: 978-91-7685-423-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


In naturally occurring conversation, speakers use fillers such as ‘euh’ and ‘euhm’ for a variety of reasons. In this study, we explore speakers’ gaze behavior when producing a filler, as the functions that have been associated with fillers and gaze aversion show some promising similarities. Studies show that both fillers and gaze aversion are associated with a speaker being hesitant or uncertain (Kendon, 1967, De Leeuw, 2007). Also in terms of the turn taking system, the functions of fillers and gaze aversion overlap as they both play an important role as turn holding signals (Maclay and Osgood, 1959; Kendon, 1967). However, the present analysis shows that speakers’ gaze behavior when uttering a filler is not so clear cut: a sustained gaze at the interlocutor during a filler is almost as frequent as gazing away. In the second part of the analysis, we compare speakers’ gaze patterns when producing two different manifestations of the filler (‘euh’ vs. ‘euhm’ in Dutch). These formal variants show some interesting differences in the co-occurring gaze distribution. More than ‘euh’, the longer variant ‘euhm’ is accompanied by a gaze aversion or a gaze fixation to the background. The multimodal analysis we present in this study supports previous findings of an interactional difference in vocal and vocal-nasalic fillers (Clark, 1994; Swerts, 1998; De Leeuw, 2007, Navarretta, 2015).


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