Variation and Change in the Use of Hesitation Markers in Germanic Languages

in Language Dynamics and Change
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In this study, we investigate crosslinguistic patterns in the alternation between UM, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel followed by a final labial nasal, and UH, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel in an open syllable. Based on a quantitative analysis of a range of spoken and written corpora, we identify clear and consistent patterns of change in the use of these forms in various Germanic languages (English, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Danish, Faroese) and dialects (American English, British English), with the use of UM increasing over time relative to the use of UH. We also find that this pattern of change is generally led by women and more educated speakers. Finally, we propose a series of possible explanations for this surprising change in hesitation marker usage that is currently taking place across Germanic languages.

Variation and Change in the Use of Hesitation Markers in Germanic Languages

in Language Dynamics and Change

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    Figure 1a

    Proportion of UM over UH for the PNC dataset by year of recording and gender

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    Figure 1b

    Proportion of UM over UH for the Norwegian dataset by year of recording and gender

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    Figure 1c

    Proportion of UM over UH for the Dutch dataset by year of recording and gender

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    Figure 2a

    American English Switchboard data: proportion of UM over UH (top) and relative frequency of hesitation markers (bottom) by age and gender

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    Figure 2b

    American English Switchboard data: relative frequency of UM (top) and relative frequency of UH (bottom) by age and gender

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    Figure 3a

    Dutch spoken data: proportion of UM over UH (top) and relative frequency of hesitation markers (bottom) by age and gender

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    Figure 3b

    Dutch spoken data: relative frequency of UM (top) and relative frequency of UH (bottom) by age and gender

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    Figure 4a

    American Twitter data: proportion of UM over UH (top) and relative frequency of UM and UH (bottom) by gender

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    Figure 4b

    American Twitter data: relative frequency of UM (top) and relative frequency of UH (bottom) by gender

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    Figure 5a

    Dutch Twitter data: proportion of UM over UH (top) and relative frequency of UM and UH (bottom) by age and gender

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    Figure 5b

    Dutch Twitter data: relative frequency of UM (top) and relative frequency of UH (bottom) by age and gender

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