Hesitation Particles - Maia Chao
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Hesitation Particles

Sound Composition (5:29)

2015-16

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Filler words are a type of discourse particle often called hesitation particles used in most languages to mark a pause or hesitation in speech. They contribute to a speaker’s fluency and social finesse in a particular language and reveal a pervasive drive to fill the void and reserve space for oneself to speak. Though sometimes treated as linguistic detritus, this composition valorizes filler words as critical subconscious tools of language to mediate between self and other. As positive signifiers of linguistic gaps, they are uniquely poised in the space between sound and language.

The resulting audio composition is comprised of original recordings collected through one-on-one interviews with 31 native speakers of distinct languages. The arrangement emulates linguistic immersion and the sensation of a crowd, allowing viewers to encounter the individual and the collective at once. The composition ebbs and flows as the prosody of the speakers converge and diverge, diminishing specific lexical value and moving toward a generalized study of the poetics of the utterance. 

This project would not have been possible without the generous participation of many: Timothy Riker, Miled Faiza, Mirena Christoff, Jen Ma, David Randl, Jaap Ruoff, Youenn Kervennic, Silja, Vangelis Calotychos, Kaksha Barman, Matteo Iudice, Hiroshi Tajima, Go Eun Jeong, Lung-Hua Hu (Gail), Thomas Ma, Dikshyant Rai, Mona Delgado, Iraj Anvar,  Magdalena Harrison, Vladimir Golstein, Anastasiia Kisurina, Ana Alejandre-Lara, María García Lopez, Kelvin Kiarie, Tida Osotsapa, Ercan Balci, Tugba Yildirim, Tung Tran, and Daniel Stern.