Cluttering: repetitions

Every speaker repeats words from time to time, even the most experienced or talented orators. That is why we call a repetition a normal (typical) disfluency. However, when the number of typical disfluencies becomes too much at any point, your communication with others gets disturbed. In cluttering repetitions – like those of syllables, words or group of words – may occur frequently. These are symptoms of what is called syntactic cluttering. The repetitions differ from those in stuttering in the sense that they are made in a relaxed manner. Typical for stuttering speakers is that they get stuck in words or sounds. Like in: “A-A-Apple”. Such tense sound repetitions are therefore called stuttering-like disfluencies.

Types of repetitions

Everyone uses repetitions in his speech. Often, in normal speech, repetitions are used deliberately. For example to stress a certain piece of information, trying to make the message more convincing or meaningful to the listener. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” is a good example of that. In this case it makes someone feel even more engaged into the subject. In cluttered speech repetitions are not produced for the above mentioned reasons. In fact, they are attempts to gain more time. There are different kinds of repetitions in cluttering. People who clutter (or stutter) may for example repeat:

  • Phrase repetitions. This is when a group of words is repeated
    • Example: “Who is … who is that man?”
  • Single whole word repetitions. This is when you repeat a single word.
    • Example: “Who … who is that man?”
  • Repetition of single sounds
    • Example: “sh-sh-shave”
  • Repetitions of syllables
    • Example: “spea-spea-speaker”

We know from research that the frequency of non-fluent repetitions that occur in cluttering differ from those in stuttering. Results also show that there are differences between the two groups of speakers (stutterers and clutterers) in the types of word repetitions and in their duration. Speech-language pathologist are therefor encouraged to not only analyse the frequency of repetitions in cluttering but also the nature of these disfluencies.