The Evaluative Consequences of Hedges, Hesitations, and Intensifies Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles



    1. Lawrence A. Hosman (Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1978) is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi. Thanks is given to Keith Erickson and Susan Siltanen for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. The first study was presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, Boston, MA, November 1987.
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This article examines the separate and combined impact of hedges, hesitations, and intensifiers on perceptions of authoritativeness, sociability, character, and similarity, and the extent to which messages containing one or more of these language variables differs from a “prototypically” powerless message in evaluative consequences. A “prototypically” powerless message is one that contains not only hedges, hesitations, and intensifiers, but also contains polite forms and meaningless particles, such as “oh, well” and “you know.” Two studies indicated that hedges and hesitations individually affected perceptions of authoritativeness and sociability, but interactions among the variables were not found in the studies. Furthermore, only high intensifiers/low hedges/low hesitations and low intensifiers/low hedges/low hesitations messages differed significantly from the “prototypically” powerless message. The second study revealed that speaker status interacted to affect evaluative consequences. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for the power of speech style construct.