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Cut-offs and Gestures: Analytical Tools to Understand a Second Language Speaker

9 pagesPublished: February 23, 2017


This paper will focus on one specific type of disfluency (speech less than fluent), that is, interruptions or cut-offs. The research on cut-offs has led to various hypotheses explaining how cut-offs are processed: Seyfeddinipur, Kita & Indefrey (2008) suggested that the cut-off is a controlled action and so on detecting the trouble the stop might be postponed, if necessary, to allow time for the resumption process; Tydgat, Stevens, Hartsuiker and Pickering (2011) added that the stopping and resumption processes are likely to occur concurrently and share the same resources. Therefore, the speaker has to decide whether it is more effective to stop and, if so, where.
In Second Language Acquisition (SLA) error has been the topic of much discussion. However, disfluencies have surprisingly aroused less interest. SLA usually takes the view that any repair following a disfluency is the consequence of linguistic difficulties (usually grammar or vocabulary). However, like among native speakers, there are more reasons for disfluency and repair than just linguistic difficulties.
A tool to aid disfluency analysis is that of the gesture performed together with speech. McNeill’s gesture theory holds that gesture and speech are two modalities of the same communicative process and that as such should be analysed together (2012). Therefore, the gesture might provide additional analytical information to the observer.
The objective of this study was to investigate the nature of cut-offs in speakers using their mother tongue and also a second language. As our specific interest is the acquisition of Spanish by English speakers, our results are based on data from 8 participants, 4 Spanish native speakers and 4 Hong Kong students of Spanish as a foreign language (L2). Our results, based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis, indicate that cut-offs, and the gestures associated with them, are used similarly by native speakers of both English and Spanish, including the relationship between the cut-off and the repair or its absence and the gesture. However, the L2 results are very different, showing a significant increase of within-word cut-offs in Hong Kong participants and a decrease among Spanish native speakers. We observed differences in the length and number of pauses after the cut-offs, as well as differences as to the point at which the cut-off occurred in the word. This paper will provide explanations as to the differences observed as well as providing evidence to support some of the existing hypotheses on cut-off production and gesture-speech relationships.

Keyphrases: cut-off, disfluencies, gestures, Interruptions, second language acquisition

In: Chelo Vargas-Sierra (editor). Professional and Academic Discourse: an Interdisciplinary Perspective, vol 2, pages 60--68

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Renia Lopez-Ozieblo},
  title     = {Cut-offs and Gestures: Analytical Tools to Understand a Second Language Speaker},
  booktitle = {Professional and Academic Discourse: an Interdisciplinary Perspective},
  editor    = {Chelo Vargas-Sierra},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Language and Linguistics},
  volume    = {2},
  pages     = {60--68},
  year      = {2017},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2398-5283},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/tb8k}}
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