Kenneth Kaye’s Publications           go to index

Brief Notice


Siegman & S. Feldstein (eds.), Of speech and time: Temporal speech patterns in interpersonal contexts. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1979. Pp. x + 230.


You can’t judge this book by its cover. Of its nine chapters, seven deal with pauses in speech: their decline with age (Sabin et al.); their prediction by personality factors (Feldstein et al.); their modifiability by conditioning (Beattie), interviewer (Siegman), and task (Siegman); their location with respect to clause boundaries (Brotherton) and to both clause boundaries and gestures (Butterworth and Goldman-Eisler). These chapters summarize more than two dozen experiments in detail. Although most of those experiments have been published in journals, it is useful to have them reviewed in one place with the authors addressing one another. Clearly, hesitation represents more than one phenomenon: Some pauses seem to be for “semantic planning,” as Goldman-Eisler suggests, prior to the actual construction of an utterance; other, briefer pauses mark lexical choices or perhaps mark clause boundaries; still others monitor behavior of the listener. A few of the authors waste some energy in arguing which one of these explanations is the correct one; actually, they do not conflict.

In a vain attempt to appeal to a wider audience, the editors include (and emphasize) two irrelevant studies, which unfortunately accomplish the opposite of what was intended: We immediately see that the book’s title and subtitle do not envelop a fruitful or potentially integratable field of research. The editors’ hopes are further dashed by the willingness of the authors (Beebe, Stern & Jaffe, and Hayes & Cobb) to claim regularities (:kinesic rhythms” and “ultradian rhythms” respectively) for which they have no statistical evidence and which their illustrations make dubious. Co-author Jaffe’s role in debunking Goldman-Eisler’s earlier claims regarding rhythms (Jaffe, Breskin, & Gerstman 1972) regrettably did not prepare him to take an equally skeptical position here. -- Reviewed by Kenneth Kaye




Jaffe, J., Breskin, S., & Gerstman, L.J. Random generation of apparent speech rhythms. Language and speech 15. (1972). 68-71.


[Reviewed in Language in Society, 1981, Vol. 10, p. 317]