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Subject: Technical term for a crutch word?
Question: I was wondering if there is a term in linguistics for the following: whenever a non-

native speaker begins acquiring another language, they often repeat a simple

transitional phrase or word in this non-native language when they are flustered,

nervous or are still cross-translating into their native language.

For example, I often use ''that is to say'' or ''就是说'' unconsciously when I'm struggling

to explain myself. And I've noticed that many other non-native speakers will repeat

phrases like ''the point is''; ''how to say''; ''Indeed''; or ''so on and so forth'' several times

while they formulate responses (in English).

Is there a term in linguistics that describes this pattern?


Reply: These are pragmatic fillers, or pragmatic markers, being “pragmatic” in that they help speakers organise, rethink, repair, etc. what they’re saying on the fly.

I’ve also seen them called, informally, “verbal crutches”, and I don’t think they’re specific to non-native speech: they’re a necessary feature of all speech. Have a look at the references included in this blog post of mine, ‘Fluent mumbles and precise vagueness’:


Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
Date: 29-Jul-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Technical term for a crutch word?    Susan D Fischer     (29-Jul-2013)

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