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In some languages, words are marked for more things than in others.

This affects what information must be included in a sentence or passage. For example, someone saying "Do you want to come along with us?" in Hebrew must mark the first or second word for gender and number (of the "you"), whereas in English the entire sentence can be said without any notice taken of gender or number.

It also affects how soon information must be included in a sentence or passage. For example, someone saying "I had two kittens" in English can leave the number (plural) of kittens out until he gets to the predicate; thus, when he starts the sentence, he need not even know what it is that he had: that comes later on in the sentence. In Hebrew, it's there-were to-me two kittens, so the speaker must know, as soon as he starts the sentence, what he's referring to at the end of it (or their number, anyway).

One can theorize that, in languages that make you plan your sentences ahead more (because more words are marked for more things and must agree), the speakers are in general more likely to have their words ready before speaking. That might manifest itself in reduced midspeech or increased prespeech usage of words like "um".

Has anyone researched correlation between markedness/agreement of words in a language and any other measure of having one's words ready before speaking? What has been found?


I am largely untrained in linguistics, so excuse my ignorance and, in particular, the imprecision or misapplication of any terms of art that I may use. I'd appreciate any edits that correct misuse of words, especially in the tags.

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    Anecdotally, in the languages I understand that require such planning, people still don't always know what they're going to say in advance. They just make mistakes and then repeat the affected words once they know what they're going to say. For example, in French I heard the other day: "Il y a certains [mp] ... euh, certaines [fp] raisons [fp] à considérer." Similarly: "C'est un problème de [unmarked] ........ du [ms] gouvernement [ms]," one French professor told me, surprising me by how long a pause still didn't interrupt the readjustment of that tiny word! – Luke Sawczak May 10 '18 at 11:55
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Of course there is lot of linguistic research on how speakers present information in sentences. To mention just two fields here,

  • Information structure or linguistic topology is about the order of information in a sentence (given–new)
  • Information density asks on the amount of information (in bits) that is added at each word, T Florian Jäger is a well-known researcher and pioneer in this field.

Words like um are called fillers in linguistics, and there is ongoing research on the use of fillers based on spoken corpora.

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  • Thank you! As the question asks, "Has anyone researched correlation [with] any other measure of having one's words ready before speaking", for example "reduced midspeech or increased prespeech usage of words like 'um'"? – msh210 May 9 '18 at 8:30

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