In linguistics, a filler is a sound or word in speaking used by someone to show that they haven’t finished speaking yet but are either forming their thoughts into speech or mentally searching for the right word.
Common fillers in English are:
- um – /um/
- er – /ə/
However, we can also use words (and sometimes phrases) which don’t add any meaning to what we say but give us time to think:
you know what I mean
The idea behind these fillers is to either allow the speaker to keep the conversation (i.e. if they did not make a sound the other person might begin speaking and take the conversation away from them) or to complete a conversation without actually making a meaningful statement.
The written equivalent of a filler is probably chewing your pencil.
In the video we see a humorous take on fillers and modern speech. Well worth a look if you have a few minutes free.