Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kyna Betancourt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Maxfield, Ph.D.


Bilingual, Hesitation, Reading, Speaker Identification, Spontaneous Speech


Hesitation use is common among all speakers, regardless of whether they are engaged in their dominant or non-dominant language (Fehringer & Fry, 2007; Reed, 2000). The question is whether a bilingual speaker will engage in the same types of hesitations in both languages. If hesitation patterns can be identified consistently across speakers regardless of language, their use as an acoustic cue for speaker identification may be possible. This study examines differences in hesitation use across languages and speaking contexts (reading vs. conversation) in bilingual speakers.

Twenty Spanish-English bilinguals (ages 19 -31 years) were tested as part of a larger speaker identification project focusing on bilingual speech patterns. These individuals were recorded in a sound-treated booth while speaking extemporaneously and reading a standardized passage in both Spanish and English. Unfilled pause length and speech segment durations were obtained from one minute speech samples using Praat scripts (Boersma & Weenink, 2014). Pause to speaking ratios were computed in Excel. The number of filled pauses were determined from the same one minute speech samples in English and Spanish. Differences in planning style were demonstrated with step graphs which compared both the frequency and length of alternations between speech and pauses in two participants with different planning styles.

Wilcoxon signed ranks tests revealed significant differences in the use of unfilled pauses across speaking contexts in both languages. Both pause to speaking ratios and pause durations were larger in spontaneous speech when compared to read speech. Speech segment durations were shorter in extemporaneous speech and filled pauses were more common in spontaneous speech.

Cross-language comparisons were considered within each speaking condition. Results indicated few instances where there were significant differences. There were longer speech segment durations in read speech and more filled pause use in spontaneous speech in English. Further demonstration of these patterns was illustrated through step graphs.

The similarities in the hesitation phenomenon between languages suggests that bilingual speakers often use the same planning aspects between languages and carryover aspects of speech production from their first language to their second (Fehringer & Fry, 2007). Therefore, comparisons within and across languages within a specific speaking condition may be useful in speaker identification. However, these findings also indicate the need for caution when comparing speech samples across speaking conditions using unfilled and filled pauses. One should consider hesitation as one of several acoustic cues for use in speaker identification in a cross-language situation.