Residue | Speech elements seen as superfluous or secondary, such as hesitation, stuttering, grumbling, mouth noises, tongue clicks, or breathing—though one can also see residue as a form of resistance and a mark of singularity in speech.

Which speech elements can be described as residual? Signs of hesitation, stammering and stuttering, breathing, vocal tics devoid of semantic value, lisps, excessive spacing, unpredictable diction speed, etc. Though sometimes pathological in nature, these elements are like parasites to a communication norm we can only but imagine. Indeed, speech without residue would be “transparent” speech devoid of bothersome asperities, whose only function (transmitting information) would limit its form and reach.

Three main themes make up this collection: parasites, accidents, and punctuation. The idea of residue is a paradoxical one, caught between intentionality, accident, and value judgment—something which is not as superfluous as it appears to be.


When presenting someone at a gathering, I must be as precise possible. In this clip, a woman is tasked with presenting a researcher, but for reasons that are difficult to understand, she is incapable of constructing her discourse clearly. It becomes parasitized with hesitations and a proliferation of the term “so,” (donc) which appears to function somewhere between a vocal tic and a form of phatic recovery (see also Alors d’abord sur en fait, Suivre le mouvement des associations, and Ces pulsions de haine affreuse).

Residue can also be caused by an articulatory problem, whether produced by the ingestion of substances, like David Hasselhoff speaking with his daughter (see also If you actually go there, The biggest in the world), or by a more or less incapacitating pathology (see Ai-le-ron, Le côté, l’enfance, Tous les matins, Une chose enfantine, and La pensée libérale pure et simple).

But parasitic residue can paradoxically dramatize certain instances of speech. This is the case with Erwan, a player in the reality television show Secret Story. It is a process which allows one to make listeners wait while gathering one’s thoughts, like this hypnosis session a speaker tries to reconstruct by using extended spacing, tongue clicks, and onomatopoeia. In an interview for the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française, Louis-Ferdinand Céline produces continuous speech while softening his point with breathing and murmurs, sounding like Brigitte Fontaine play with melody and timbre. Parasitization can also be used deliberately, as in this interview where Charles Manson uses residue’s capacity for blurring speech to produce a willfully incomprehensible form of discourse.


If I am to teach something to someone, I must be understood by the audience I am speaking to. A speaker recorded at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales stammers for several tens of seconds, hesitates, tries to pull himself together, and ends by fearing his audience might take him for a “strange crazy person.” The comedic effect of this accident is something like the public announcement of someone’s death.

Residue can also be caused by a certain form of linguistic incompetence, as when artist Cédric Anglaret asks a Russian speaker to read Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s novel Mort à Crédit aloud. The speaker, who does not understand what he is reading, tries to read the text in wholly phonic terms, which he can only approximate. Articulating certain sounds is difficult for him because he cannot anticipate the sound of what he is reading in the same way a French speaker would. His pronunciation criteria are mostly determined by his own language, Russian (see also Veu wreu rah n'importe quoi).


Certain examples have led us to view residue as a resource (see the entry on Punctuation). The fact that a word is repeated and immediately considered to be parasitic (with regards to a syntactic or semantic ideal) does not stop it from serving as a crutch to someone’s speech. Such is the case in this excerpt, where American artist Dan Graham’s strongly cadenced speech makes recurrent use of the mark of hesitation “ahm.” This mark is always the same: the persistent “ahm” functions as a kind of continuous bass, to use a musical metaphor, a great bell from which intelligible speech can emerge. In pragmatic terms, this case shows us how speech can be founded, and made possible, by residue. Indeed, Dan Graham has a stutter. He must set down this residue in order for his words to take shape. Michael Richards uses this same “ahm” to find the right tone and words for apologizing after an on-stage rant (see also Ces pulsions de haine affreuse).

Residue aestheticization

Lastly, residue can be the basis for entertainment (see also Tchic tchic dah, Y’a deux genres de mec, Moi, qu’est-ce que j’ai comme blé ?). It can also be reconfigured as an aesthetic object, as in this show, or in the Sequenza III for a woman’s voice.

  • A few words to sing

    Luisa Castellani, excerpt of Sequenza III by Luciano Berio, 1998.

  • Ai-le-ron

    Scene from a rehabilitation process, YouTube video, 2008.

  • Alors d'abord sur en fait

    Coralie Innelé, excerpt of the show La Fabrique de l'Histoire, France Culture, 2009.

  • Bon courage

    Announcement of the death of the singer Carlos, France Bleu, 2008.

  • Ces pulsions de haine affreuse

    Catherine Chalier, excerpt of the show Les nouveaux chemins de la connaissance, France Culture, 2010.

  • Comme des fantômes

    Excerpt of a YouTube video, 2012.

  • Des fréquences limites

    Barbara Matijević, excerpt of Purgatoire by Joris Lacoste, Théâtre national de la Colline, 2007.

  • Do you feel blame

    Charles Manson, excerpt of an interview with Heidi Shulman, Today Show, 1987.

  • Donc, donc

    Conference speaker presentation, unknown source, 1999.

  • Euh, I mean

    Frank Stella, extrait du film Painters Painting d'Emile de Antonio, 1972

  • I was a young boy

    Mike Tyson, excerpt of the film Tyson by James Toback, 2008.

  • I'm afraid too

    Reaction video posted on YouTube, 2008.

  • I'm from New York

    Dan Graham, excerpt of the film Dan Graham: Beyond by Anat Ebgi and Aaron Brewer, 2009.

  • If you actually go there

    Michael Pitt, excerpt of the film Last Days by Gus Van Sant, 2005.

  • Ils étaient lourds

    Louis-Ferdinand Céline, excerpt of the show Lectures pour tous, ORTF, 1957.

  • Itako no Kuchiyose

    Curse by an Itako shaman, recorded at the Osorezam festival, Japan, 1973.

  • L'arrivée du crabe mystique

    Nicolas Couturier, excerpt of a hypnosis account, recording by Joris Lacoste, 2005.

  • La langue de tous les jours

    Helena Janeczek, excerpt of the show La Grande table, France Culture, 2019.

  • Le côté, l'enfance

    Patrick Modiano, excerpt of the show Un Siècle d’écrivain, France 3, 1996.

  • Ma douleur aujourd'hui

    Gérard Lanvin, Benoît Poelvoorde, excerpt of the show Le 23-15, France 2, 2002.

  • Michael Jackson !

    Michael Jackson, excerpt of the MJ & Friends concert in Munich, 1999.

  • Mortacrédit'

    Reading of Céline by a non-francophone Russian speaker, from a personal recording by Cédric Anglaret, 2000s.

  • Sauf sur un point

    Marc Kravetz, excerpt of the show Les Matins, France Culture, 2007.

  • Si je suis un fou bizarre

    Philippe Bourgois, excerpt of a conference at the EHESS, from a personal recording by Nicolas Rollet, 2007.

  • The biggest in the world

    Michael Jackson, excerpt of a voicemail message, 2009.

  • Tous les matins

    Michel Prades, excerpt of the sound art piece Mmmmmmmm by Boris Achour, 2000.

  • Tout va lui échapper

    Catherine Lemorton during a debate in French Parliament about the second Hadopi Law, 2009.

  • Tripmir

    Documentary excerpt, Croatian National Radio, unknown date.

  • Trop chelou

    Récit de rêve, 2020.

  • Tu fais quoi avec ça ?

    Gwenaël Morin, extrait d’un entretien pour Radio Amandiers, 2021.

  • Ummm...

    Paul Dutton, excerpt of the album Mouth Pieces : Solo Soundsinging, 2000.

  • Un point c’est tout

    Claudette, excerpt from the film Sans Adieu by Christophe Agou, 2017.

  • Une chose enfantine

    Françoise Sagan, excerpt of the show Ramdam, FR3, 1993.

  • Une sorte de manifeste

    Brigitte Fontaine, excerpt of the nightly news hour, France 3, 2009.

  • Veu wreu rah n'importe quoi

    Excerpt of a personal recording by Gauthier Tassart, 2007.

  • Y'a deux genres de mecs

    Coluche, excerpt of the comedy sketch “C'est l'histoire d'un mec,” 1974.

  • Y’a un y’a euh

    Excerpt of an interview between Belinda Annaloro and some children, 2014.


Paul Dutton, excerpt of the album Mouth Pieces : Solo Soundsinging, 2000.


Scene from a rehabilitation process, YouTube video, 2008.