Pausing briefly while speaking is a natural part of delivery. We pause for several reason. The most obvious one is to take breath so we can carry on speaking. Some pauses occur before content words or complex clauses suggesting that the cognitive planning processes can delay the output of the words. It has also been suggested that we pause more when we have to make choices in what words and expressions we select to say. So giving ones opinion would include more pause time on average than reporting factual ideas.
Hesitation, Equivocation and Pausing
Unveiling the micro-world of political rhetoric and spin
Every day we are bombarded with political rhetoric in the form of interviews, debates and statements from our political leaders and commentators, on the television, radio and internet. Underlying this rhetoric is the micro-world of spoken discourse that we rarely get to see or explore. This micro-world consists of politicians and commentators hesitating, equivocating, pausing, and using all their rhetorical nounce to get their message across while presenting themselves in the best light and avoiding saying anything that might damage their face.
Numbers and costings are notoriously difficult themes during election time when the pressure to rattle off the top of the head a list of figures without so much as a “hesitation, deviation or repetition” is applied to hapless politicians who happen to find themselves on the nation’s airwaves. The cost for getting this “wrong” can be quite serious as Diane Abbott has just found out after her “car-crash” performance on LBC radio this morning with interviewer Nick Ferrari.
Pausing in a political interview can be taken the wrong way and have consequences for the ensuing discourse. Here is Emily Thornberry (ET) pausing for 1.3 seconds (line 05) during a TV interview on Channel 4 news with Jon Snow (JS). 1.3 seconds might not seem like a long time but in the context of this discussion it is seized on by the interviewer as ‘hesitation’, or a sign perhaps that the question is troublesome for the Labour politician and her party.