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E. Understanding The Quirks Of Speech

Narrator: This is Science Today. Our daily conversations are filled with what's called discourse markers and disfluencies. Psycholinguist Jean Fox Tree of the University of California, Santa Cruz demonstrates a few examples of discourse markers.

Fox Tree: Um is one. Ah is another one. Some other examples are you know, well, I mean, like, so anyway. I've even heard people say I don't know at the end of sentences and that would be a kind of discourse marker.

Narrator: And then, there are disfluencies...

Fox Tree: A disfluency is when people repeat what they're saying in speech, so they say something like she went to the to the store. Ah, another kind of disfluency is a restart, where you start an idea and then you restart...you, where you start an idea and then you stop and then you start again, like I just did in that example!

Narrator: While these speech patterns are considered undesirable by most scholars, Fox Tree's research indicates these patterns may actually help listeners understand speech. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.