Get Filler Linguistics essential facts below. View Videos or join the Filler Linguistics discussion. Add Filler Linguistics to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Words or sounds used without meaning, like "umm" or "Err.."
In linguistics, a filler, filled pause, hesitation marker or planner is a sound or word that is spoken in conversation by one participant to signal to others a pause to think without giving the impression of having finished speaking. (These are not to be confused with placeholder names, such as thingamajig, whatchamacallit, whosawhatsa and whats'isface, which refer to objects or people whose names are temporarily forgotten, irrelevant, or unknown.) Fillers fall into the category of formulaic language, and different languages have different characteristic filler sounds. The term filler also has a separate use in the syntactic description of wh-movement constructions.
In American English, the most common filler sounds are ah or uh/?/ and um/?m/ (er/?:/ and erm/?:m/ in British English). Among younger speakers, the fillers "like", "you know", "I mean", "okay", "so", "actually", "basically", and "right" are among the more prevalent. Christopher Hitchens described the use of the word "like" as a discourse marker or vocalized pause as a particularly prominent example of the "Californianization of American youth-speak," and its further recent spread throughout other English dialects via the mass-media.
Filler words in different languages
In Afrikaans, ah, um, and uh are common fillers (um, and uh being in common with English).
In American Sign Language, UM can be signed with open-8 held at chin, palm in, eyebrows down (similar to FAVORITE); or bilateral symmetric bent-V, palm out, repeated axial rotation of wrist (similar to QUOTE).
In Arabic, ?ya?ni ("means") and wall?h(i) ("by God") are common fillers. In Moroccan Arabic, ?z3ma ("like") is a common filler, as well as ewa (so). In Iraqi Arabic, shisma ("what's its name") is a filler.
In Assyrian, yeni ("I mean"), aya, mindy or hina ("thingy" and "uh"), akh ("like") and kheena ("well") are common fillers.
In Bengali, ? (mane: "it means","I mean","that is") and thuri ("..er..that is") are common fillers.
In Bulgarian, common fillers are ? (uh), ? (amii, 'well'), (tui, 'so'), ? (taka, 'thus'), (dobre, 'well'), (takova, 'this') and (znachi, 'it means'), ? (nali, 'right').
In Cantonese, speakers often say zik1 hai6 ("that is"/"meaning") as a filler.
In Catalan, eh/?/, doncs ("so"), llavors ("therefore"), o sigui ("it means"), saps? ("you know"?) and diguem-ne ("say") are common fillers.
In Croatian, the words ovaj (literally "this one", but the meaning is lost) and dakle ("so"), and zna?i ("meaning", "it means") are frequent.
In Czech, fillers are called slovní vata, meaning "word cotton/padding", or parasitické výrazy, meaning "parasitic expressions". The most frequent fillers are ?ili, tak or tak?e ("so"), prost? ("simply"), jako ("like").
In Dutch, ehm, and dus ("thus") are some of the more common fillers. Also eigenlijk ("actually"), zo ("so"), nou ("well") and zeg maar ("so to say") in Belgian Dutch, allez ("come on") or (a)wel ("well") in Netherlandic Dutch, weet je? ("you know?") etc.
In Esperanto, do ("therefore") is the most common filler.
In Estonian, nii ("so") is one of the most common fillers.
In Filipino, ah, eh, ay, and ano ("what"), parang ("like"), diba? ("isn't it right?"), ayun ("that's") are the most common fillers.
In Finnish, niinku ("like"), tuota, and öö are the most common fillers. Swearing is also used as a filler often, especially among youth. The most common swear word for that is vittu, which is a word for female genitalia.
In French, euh/ø/ is most common; other words used as fillers include quoi ("what"), bah, ben ("well"), tu vois ("you see"), t'vois c'que j'veux dire? ("you see what I mean?"), tu sais, t'sais ("you know"), eh bien (roughly "well", as in "Well, I'm not sure"), and du coup (roughly "suddenly"). Outside France other expressions are t'sais veux dire? ("ya know what I mean?"; Québec), or allez une fois ("go one time"; especially in Brussels, not in Wallonia). Additional filler words used by youngsters include genre ("kind"), comme ("like"), and style ("style"; "kind").
In German, traditional filler words include äh/?:/, hm, so/zo:/, tja, halt, and eigentlich ("actually"). So-called modal particles share some of the features of filler words, but they actually modify the sentence meaning.
In Greek, ? (e), (em), (lipon, "so") and ? (kala, "good") are common fillers.
In Hebrew, (eh) is the most common filler. (em) is also quite common. Millennials and the younger Generation X speakers commonly use (ke'ilu, the Hebrew version of "like"). Additional filler words include (zt'omeret, short for zot omeret "that means"), (az, "so") and (bekitsur, "in short"). Use of fillers of Arabic origin such as ? (ya?anu, a mispronunciation of the Arabic ?, ya?ani) is also common.
In Hindi, ? (matlab, "it means"), ? ? (kya kehte hain, "what do you say"), (woh na, "that") and (ais? hai, "what it is") are some word fillers. Sound fillers include (hoon, [?u:m?]), ? (a, [?]),? (aa, [ä:]).
In Hungarian, filler sound is ?, common filler words include hát, nos (well...) and asszongya (a variant of azt mondja, which means "it says here..."). Among intellectuals, ha úgy tetszik (if you like) is used as filler.
In Icelandic, a common filler is hérna ("here"). Þúst, a contraction of þú veist ("you know"), is popular among younger speakers.
In Indonesian, anu is one of the most common fillers.
In Italian, common fillers include ehm ("um", "uh"), allora ("well then", "so"), tipo ("like"), ecco ("there"), cioè ("actually", "that is to say", "rather"), and beh ("well", "so"; most likely a shortening of bene or ebbene, which are themselves often used as filler words).
In Japanese, common fillers include (e-, eto, or "um"), (ano, literally "that over there", used as "um"), ? (ma, or "well"), (so-, used as "hmmm"), and (e-e, a surprise reaction, with tone and duration indicating positive/negative).
In Kannada, matte for "also", enappa andre for "the matter is" are common fillers.
In Korean, ? (eung), ? (eo), ? (geu), and ? (eum) are commonly used as fillers.
In Kyrgyz, ? (anan, "then", "so"), (baya, "that"), (jana, "that"), ? (u?ureki, "this"), (eme, "um"), are common fillers.
In Lithuanian, nu, am, ?inai ("you know"), ta prasme ("meaning"), tipo ("like") are some of common fillers.
In Malayalam, (athayathu, "that means...") and ennu vechaal ("then...") are common.
In Mandarin Chinese, speakers often say ; ; zhège/zhèige; 'this' or ; ; nàge/nèige; 'that' and prolonged ?; en (in common with "um" in English). Other common fillers are ?; jiù; 'just' and ; h?oxiàng; 'as if/kind of like'.
In Nepali, ? (maane, "meaning"), ? (chaine), (chai), (haina, "No?") are commonly used as fillers.
In Norwegian, common fillers are eh, altso/altså, på ein måte / på en måte ("in a way"), berre/bare ("just") ikkje sant / ikke sant (literally "not true?", meaning "don't you agree?", "right?", "no kidding" or "exactly"), vel ("well"), liksom ("like") and er det ("is it", "it is"). In Bergen, sant ("true") is often used instead of ikkje/ikke sant. In the region of Trøndelag, // (comes from ser du which means "you see", "as you can see") is also a common filler.
In Persian, ? (bebin, "you see"), (chiz, "thing"), and ? (masalan, "for instance") are commonly used filler words. As well as in Arabic and Urdu, ? (ya?ni, "I mean") is also used in Persian. Also, eh is a common filler in Persian.
In Portuguese, é, hum, então ("so"), tipo ("like") and bem ("well") are the most common fillers.
In Polish, the most common filler sound is yyy/?/ and also eee/?/ (both like English um) and while common its use is frowned upon. Other examples include, no/n?/ (like English well), wiesz/vje?/ ("you know").
In Punjabi, ? (?, mat?lab, "it means") is a common filler.
In Romanian, deci/det/ ("therefore") is common, especially in school, and ?/?/ is also very common (can be lengthened according to the pause in speech, rendered in writing as ), whereas p?i/p?j/ is widely used by almost anyone. A modern filler has gained popularity among the youths - gen/dn/, analogous to the English "like", literally translated as "type".
In Russian, fillers are called - (slova-parazity, "parasite words"); the most common are ?-? (è-è, "eh"), (vot, "here it is"), (èto, "this"), ? (togo, "that kind, sort of"), () ((nu) takoye, "some kind [of this]"), (nu, "well, so"), (zna?it, "I mean, kind of, like"), (tak, "so"), (kak ego, "what's it [called]"), ? (tipa, "kinda"), (kak by, "[just] like, sort of"), and ? (ponimayesh, "understand?, you know, you see").
In Serbian, (zna?i, "means"), (pa, "so"), (mislim, "i think") and ? (ovaj, "this") are common fillers.
In Slovak, oné ("that"), tento ("this"), proste ("simply"), or ako?e ("it's like...") are used as fillers. The Hungarian izé (or izí in its Slovak pronunciation) can also be heard, especially in parts of the country with a large Hungarian population. Ta is a filler typical of Eastern Slovak and one of the most parodied features.
In Slovene, pa? ("indeed", "just", "merely"), a ne? ("right?"), and no ("well") are some of the fillers common in central Slovenia, including Ljubljana.
In Spanish, fillers are called muletillas. Some of the most common in American Spanish are e/e/, este (roughly equivalent to uhm, literally means "this"), and o sea (roughly equivalent to "I mean", literally means "or be it"). In Spain the previous fillers are also used, but ¿Vale? ("right?") and ¿no? are very common too. and occasionally pues ("well") is used. Younger speakers there often use en plan (meaning "as", "like" or "in [noun] mode"). The Argentine filler word che became the nickname of rebel Ernesto "Che" Guevara, by virtue of his frequent use of it.
In Swedish, fillers are called utfyllnadsord; some of the most common are öhm or öh, ja ("yes"), ehm or eh (for example eh jag vet inte) or ba (comes from bara, which means "only"), asså or alltså ("therefore", "thus"), va (comes from vad, which means "what"), and liksom and typ (both similar to the English "like").
In Tamil, paatheenga-na ("if you see...") and apparam ("then...") are common.
In Telugu, (ikkada entante, "what's here is...") and (tarwatha, "then...") are common and there are numerous like this.
In Turkish, yani ("meaning..."), ?ey ("thing"), i?te ("that is"), and falan ("as such", "so on") are common fillers.
In Ukrainian, ? (e, similar to "um"), (nu, "well"), ? (i, "and"), (tsey, "this"), - (toy-vo, "this one") are common fillers.
In Urdu, ? (yani, "meaning..."), (flana flana, "this and that" or "blah blah"), (haan haan, "yeah yeah") and ? (acha, "ok") are also common fillers.
In Welsh, de or ynde is used as a filler (loosely the equivalent of "You know?" or "Isn't it?"); 'lly (from felly - so/like in English, used in northern Wales) and also iawn (translated 'ok' is used as a filler at the beginning, middle or end of sentences); 'na ni (abbreviation of dyna ni - there we are); ym... and y... are used similarly to the English "um...".
The linguistic term "filler" has another, unrelated use in syntactic terminology. It refers to the pre-posed element that fills in the "gap" in a wh-movement construction. Wh-movement is said to create a long-distance or unbounded "filler-gap dependency". In the following example, there is an object gap associated with the transitive verb saw, and the filler is the wh-phrase how many angels: "I don't care [how many angels] she told you she saw."
^Tottie, Gunnel (2016). "Planning what to say: Uh and um among the pragmatic markers". In Kaltenbock, Gunther; Keizer, Evelien; Lohmann, Arne (eds.). Outside the Clause: Form and Function of Extra-Clausal Constituents. pp. 97-122.