A quantitative and qualitative analysis of speech markers in the native and second language speech of bilinguals

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Applied Psycholinguistics, Volume 8, Number 02, p.121-136 (1987)






The present study investigated the use of five speech markers in the native and second language production of French-English bilinguals in a military setting. We propose that these speech markers, mechanisms for self-repair and turn-taking in conversations, are a major component of fluency. The ten participants, five high fluency speakers and five low fluency speakers, were tape-recorded with their peers in three different situations in their native and second languages, and the frequency of occurrence of speech markers was tabulated for a 5-minute segment for each situation.It was hypothesized that speakers who used differentially more prepositioned repairs (progressives) or markers placed before the repair that do not require a reorganization of the expectation of what is to follow based on what has been produced in the turn so far, would be judged more favourably than those who used more postpositioned repairs (regressives). There was no quantitative difference in the frequency of occurrence of speech markers between the high and low fluency speakers, but the high fluency speakers used more progressive than regressive types of marker. Progressive markers place fewer demands on the interlocutor than regressive markers, which require constant readjustments on the part of the listener. The profiles were similar for each individual in the native and second language but in every case there were fewer markers in the native than in the second language. Furthermore, there were fewer markers in the planned (teaching) than in the unplanned (interview) situation. The findings have important implications for the evaluation of second language fluency.