So like, why do they keep saying “um” so much?

Ellee Vikram

College is a time for learning, but learning what? Surely we can attest that only a select few of us really remember college calculus. College is really a place to learn who you are and why you are the way that you are. But what shapes this? Arguably, the language and linguistic styles that you use are quite indicative of the identity you associate with, which is altogether very fluid. This study focuses on the relationship between the gender and sexuality identities of college organization student leaders and their rates of use of like, uh or um when placed in a leading speaker or a replying speaker role during a board meeting. Specifically, I am looking at the differences in the ratios of like, uh or um to all other words spoken by directors of the club Asian Pacific Health Corps at UCLA when in different speaker roles who also have different gender and sexuality identities. The study found that women and bisexual men have a higher prevalence of like, uh or um than straight men, and that there is a higher prevalence of like, uh or um when the speaker is in the leading role rather than the replying role regardless of gender or sexuality. These findings suggest that filler words serve as methods of indicating speech roles while also contributing to gender and sexuality through their purpose in defining performative identities. So, in this way, college students are shaping their identities through the way they speak and how they utilize like, uh or um.

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