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Speech disfluencies are breaks or interruptions in speech that affect the flow of words. In this lesson, learn more about the different types of speech disfluencies from examples.

What Is A Speech Disfluency?

A speech disfluency is any interruption in the normal flow of speech. We all experience speech disfluencies from time to time. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear people use sounds such as ‘um’ or ‘uh’ while speaking.

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We are more likely to experience speech disfluencies when we are stressed, nervous, excited, or tired. We also tend to be more disfluent when we are asking questions or when someone else asks us a question.Speech disfluency can become a normal part of speech, especially for children between the ages of 2 and 7. Normal speech disfluencies do not have an apparent cause, nor do they follow a particular pattern.

There is usually no presence of physical symptoms (i.e. eye blinking or frustration) in people who experience normal speech disfluencies. These individuals also seem to rarely notice that they have a speech disfluency.

There are several normal speech disfluencies, including:

  • Repetition or correction: We repeat or correct words that we previously said. When correcting, we may substitute, delete, or insert new words. The correction still carries the same idea as the words previously stated.

    For example, ‘If Kayla does, if she does not go to the mall then I will stay home.’

  • False start: We say something, but stop mid-sentence and restart on a new idea. For example, ‘I’ve never seen, I like that design.’
  • Filled pause: We use filler words as a way to express pauses or to assist in correcting statements.

    For example, ‘She drove – uh, I mean, rode with a friend to the store.’

  • Interjection: The use of sounds to indicate that we agree or are in the process of judging something. Common interjections are ‘uh-huh,’ ‘mm,’ and ‘nuh-uh’
  • Exiting term: These are phrases that are placed between the part of the statement that we will be correcting and the actual correction. Exiting terms are used when we edit our words before we complete the full statement. Common exiting terms are ‘I mean,’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ For example, ‘The toy costs three – I mean, four dollars.’
  • Discourse marker: We use these words or phrases to help begin a statement or keep a turn.

    However, these words do not add anything to the meaning of the statement. Examples include ‘well’, ‘because,’ and ‘you know.’ For example, ‘Well, she is a keeper.’


Stuttering is a condition that is characterized by mild or severe speech disfluency. People who stutter experience more disfluencies than other individuals, and they experience different types of disfluencies, which we’ll discuss in a bit. Stuttering typically begins in early childhood and may last throughout a person’s life, though the stutter may disappear as a child ages.

It is also possible to develop a stutter as a result of brain trauma.Unlike normal disfluency, people who stutter are very aware of their disfluencies. They may try to hide their stutter or avoid speaking to others. People who stutter find it difficult to communicate with others and may avoid social activities.

In contrast to normal disfluency, people who stutter usually experience some type of physical struggle or increased physical tension, i.e. frustration and shaky lips, when they attempt to speak.Speech disfluencies that are associated with stuttering include:

  • Part-word repetitions: For example, ‘mean-mean-meaning’
  • Repetition of sounds: For example, ‘th-th-three’
  • Repetition of syllables: For example, ‘pil-pil-pillow’
  • Prolongation: Stretching sounds out longer than they should be.

    For example, ‘Haaaaaaaaapy birthday’

  • Blocks: When a person attempts to speak but no sound comes out. When the person is finally able to pronounce sound, the words seem pressured as if they are bursting out of the person. For example, ‘G. . . good day!’

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Speech disfluencies are breaks in the normal flow of speech. Speech disfluencies are a normal part of language development and include interjections, filler pauses, and false starts. Stuttering is a condition characterized by speech disfluencies and secondary physical symptoms. Disfluencies associated with stuttering include repetition of sounds, prolongation, and blocks.

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