Kinds of Pauses
We were discussing the different kinds of pauses in spoken English tonight.
Books about rhetoric will tell you that there are grammatical pauses and rhetorical pauses. A grammatical pause indicates the logical relationships between the different parts of what you’re saying. They’re the ones that are represented by punctuation when we’re writing. A rhetorical pause is used to emphasize a point. Barak Obama is pretty good with rhetorical pauses, but of course, he’s no William Shatner.
A pause that builds suspense before a punch line or gives the listener time to consider the consequences of a statement is called a pregnant pause.
In theater, there is the famous Pinter pause. This is sometimes broken into three different subtypes.
In poetry, you’ll sometimes encounter the musical pause, which is simply used to balance the rhythm of a piece. Although some experts distinguish between two subtypes of these. The one at the end of the line, and the caesural pause that occurs in the middle of a line.
In linguistics, they distinguish between physiological pauses, cognitive pauses, and communicative pauses.
The pause in the middle of a sentence that gives somebody else the chance to jump in and supply a stupid and annoying ending for the sentence is called a pause of opportunity.
The pause where everyone stares at you after you say something stupid is called a faux pause.
There has actually quite a bit of research on pauses. If you’d like to know more about them, you might enjoy this paper on focalisation pauses, this one about the types of pauses in different kinds of speech, or this one about pauses in lies.
Isn’t it interesting that there is so much variety in a part of speech which is literally nothing?