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Pause Time Patterns in Writing Narrative and Expository Texts by Children and Adults

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Discourse Processes: A Multidisciplinary Journal Volume 45, Number 4, ISSN 0163-853X


How do beginning and skilled writers compose a text in the course of time? To gain insight into the temporal aspects of planning and translating activities during writing, this article examined writing in real time and analyzed pause time patterns in writing in relation to linguistic characteristics of the written product. Fourth-grade children and adults wrote a narrative text (a personal experience) and an expository text on a socially relevant issue. They wrote their texts by hand, and a computer-controlled digitizer tablet recorded handwriting movements. Developmental patterns in pause duration as a function of genre and linguistic features of pause locations (word, clause, sentence) were studied. In a more detailed analysis, pause time patterns related to the syntactic linking of clauses were examined, and whether pause time patterning varies with different types of clauses was also examined (i.e., main clauses, coordinate clauses, finite and nonfinite subordinate clauses, and restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses). Analyses showed that pause time duration is different in narrative and expository texts, and varies with syntactic location in that both 4th-grade children and adults take more time to plan and decide at higher syntactic levels. Pause duration also varies with the syntactic linking of clauses: Children and adults pause longer before writing main clauses than before coordinate clauses, and pause longer before writing coordinate clauses than before subordinate clauses--a pattern found in narrative and expository texts. This suggests that the time beginning and adult writers take to decide on how to express their ideas in syntactically linked clauses depends on grammatical and functional aspects of clauses. (Contains 4 tables and 1 footnote.)


van Hell, J.G., Verhoeven, L. & van Beijsterveldt, L.M. (2008). Pause Time Patterns in Writing Narrative and Expository Texts by Children and Adults. Discourse Processes: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 45(4), 406-427. Retrieved August 12, 2020 from .

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