[Overton]Stuttering Terminology

  1. Fluency – smoothness with which sounds, words, and phrases are joined together during speech; lack of hesitations or repetitions in speaking.
  2. Disfluency – any interruption in the flow of speech; includes stuttering and other types of disfluencies.
  3. Stuttering – a type of disfluency characterized by one or more of the following speech behaviors:

a.      Whole-word repetition – more than three repetitions of a word

b.      Syllable repetition – repetition of a syllable (e.g., ba-ba-baby)

c.      Sound repetition – repetition of a sound (e.g., b-b-baby)

d.      Prolongation – extending, or prolonging, a sound (e.g., shshshoe)

e.      Block – a complete stop in the flow of speech; may be silent or accompanied by audible struggle behaviors

  1. Phrase repetition –repetition of two or more words (e.g., I want, I want).
  2. Revision – changing what has been said (e.g., Last night we, yesterday afternoon we went to grandma’s).
  3. Interjection – a sound, word or phrase that interrupts the flow of speech without adding meaning to the utterance (e.g., well, uh, you know, like).
  4. Hesitation – a pause in the flow of speech; can be relaxed or tense.
  5. Circumlocution – use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea (e.g., the thing you carry in rain/umbrella).
  6. Schwa vowel – the neutral vowel (uh) that occurs in the more severe syllable repetitions (e.g., buh-buh-boat/boa-boa-boat).
  7. Secondary characteristics – associated behaviors that may accompany the primary speech characteristics; often used to help the stutterer escape from stuttering and re-establish fluency (e.g., eye blinks, facial grimacing, etc.).
  8. Struggle behaviors – visible or audible signs of effort that accompany the primary speech characteristics (e.g., a rise in pitch or volume).
  9. Rate – how fast a person talks; can be expressed in words per minute (wpm) or syllables per minute (spm).
  10. Avoidance – not speaking in, or even entering certain situations, because of a fear of stuttering.
  11. Word Avoidance – not saying certain words because of a fear of stuttering; sometimes leads to a fear of words that begin with specific sounds that the stutterer has come to believe are hard to say.
  12. Postponement –tactics used to delay saying a word until the stutterer believes he can say it fluently. Some common postponement devices include inserting interjections, repeating phrases, and pretending to clear the throat.
  13. Fear – a strong emotion caused by the expectation of danger; anxious concern
  14. Shame – an emotion caused by believing you have done something wrong or improper
  15. Guilt – a feeling of responsibility for having done something wrong


It is important to remember that stuttering occurs along a continuum and is a not the same in each person who stutters. Therefore, individuals who stutter will have different degrees of the above aspects involved in their stuttering.


If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408


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Copyright 2001-2009 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Last revised: January 3, 2009