Spacing | Occurs when speech gives way to silence or absence. Spacing can refer to the gaps formed by accidental interruptions, by the indexation of speech to an external event, or to rhetorical strategies used to cut up, establish, and strengthen one’s discourse.

We are having a conversation: I let you speak; you let me answer. This is the clearest example of spacing created by the alternation of speakers exchanging words, as in this telephone conversation. But spacing is above all a process, and often a resource, that takes place within the flux of speech: we search for words, we recall ideas, we punctuate sentences, we draw blanks. To solely associate spacing to the negative ideas of “silence” or, worse, “emptiness,” would be to underestimate its richness and creativity: often, spacing is also what is being said.


Spacing is a resource that helps structure magisterial speech. Anne Fagot-Largeault’s pauses in a class at the Collège de France punctuate and highlight certain utterances, in much the same way as those of Jacques Vergès do in his plea at Klaus Barbie’s trial. The poet Henri Chopin cuts his words into very short segments, and in this Catholic sermon, it is the regularity of spacing which paces the priest’s speech and underscores his desire for clarity (see also Tu es mon autre). This formal cutting-up of speech can also be seen in the reading of a statement between two rounds of the French presidential election, or in this poem by Claude Royet-Journoud read by the author, in which spacing corresponds to the blank space left on the page being read from.

As noted by this journalist, pauses can be tools for dramatization in the media, like Dominique de Villepin’s emphatic cuts outside of the Clearstream trial. In the same way, one can enjoy the silences that say much about about Jacques Lacan at the Free University of Louvain in 1972, or American senator Robert Byrd’s pauses during a speech against the training of combat dogs in 2007.

Increasingly large spacing gives a hypnotist’s speech all the seductive breadth it needs: in a very similar way, it emphasizes the impression of trust and intimacy sought by Laurie Anderson in this excerpt of her record Big Science.


One can choose to idealize constancy of flow in speech. But if spacing is often interesting, it is because of its capacity for creating distance from a norm. Spacing becomes time for reflection when Jean-Pierre Léaud’s question is a little harsh, when Raphaël Enthoven’s is “so good,” when the journalist questioning Michel Foucault tries to unsettle him, or when Juliette Binoche plays with the limits of mutism to challenge the norms of an interview (see also Ah, un paysan! and C’est quelqu’un qui euhm). It becomes a form of stretching, marking the process of recollection, in this excerpt from a hypnosis session, or when actor Grégoire Monsaingeon describes his allotment of actions in a play. Such recollections can bring about strong emotions which demand a certain amount of stretching, like when Mike Tyson speaks about his mentor Cus d’Amato.

Spacing can also be heard when speech depends upon an external event. For the poet Klaus Groh, counting falling drops, for Georges Perec, simply describing what is taking place in the street, for this radio reporter during the invasion of Bagdad in 2003. For these shepherds, the length of an echo determines the frequency of calls made from one valley to another; in this example, it is the time consonants and vowels take to be turned around, or here a way of regulating an announcement aimed at the stream of travelers in a train station.

An event can lead to speech being spaced out, as experienced by Roland Barthes in this excerpt from a class at the Collège de France. It can also be heard in this face-off with the angry people of Bucharest on December 21, 1989. Sometimes the event in question is pathological and makes silence the very substance of a dialogue between a daughter and her mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, spacing can be a means of reestablishing speech, as in this statement recorded by an aphasic speaker. It can even be a resource in the process of learning how to read.

These two notions of pause and stretching are not, of course, mutually exclusive. One can establish a certain aesthetic framework for enunciation while being clearly constrained from the outside, as heard in the excerpt of Roland Barthes at the Collège de France, or with this witness to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, who comments on the seriousness of the event during a press review.

Far from being a simple normed mark limited to regulating the flow of speech, spacing is thus involved in speech as an action, whether to reap the benefits of this regulation, or for purposes that are less psychological and more social or dramatic.

  • 100 drops

    Klaus Groh, excerpt of the sound poem Voooxing Poooêtre, 1982.

  • A Gesù Cristo direttamente

    Stefano Siviero, excerpt from a video posted on YouTube, 2014.

  • À une minute de silence

    Cécile Duflot et Claude Bartolone, extrait d’une séance de questions au gouvernement, 2014.

  • Ah, un paysan!

    Robert Cabé, excerpt of the film Cultures et Biodiversité dans le Massif Pyrénéen by Ralph Mahfoud and Thierry Boutonnier, 2013.

  • All systems are ready

    Countdown to the launch of an H-2A rocket, Japan, 2014.

  • Alo !

    Excerpt of Nicolaz Ceauşescu’s final speech, Televiziunea Românã, 1989.

  • Are you guys in trouble ?

    Scene from a family, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2014.

  • Au moment de commencer

    Roland Barthes, excerpt of the lecture Comment vivre ensemble, Collège de France, 1976-1977.

  • Azione!

    Director's instructions on the shooting of a porn movie, 2000s.

  • Barbaric !

    Senator Robert Byrd, excerpt of a speech to the United States Senate, 2007.

  • Becoming receptive

    Excerpt of a hypnosis recording, unknown source.

  • Bonne nouvelle

    Excerpt of a Catholic sermon, excerpt of the show La Messe, France Culture, 2009.

  • Bouilloire

    Geoffrey Carey, Frédéric Danos, excerpt of the recording of predictions, 2019.

  • C'est quelqu'un qui euhm

    Ariane Dubillard on her father, France Culture, 2013.

  • Ça c'est un sourire

    Conversation in an hospital, excerpt of a recording by Esther Salmona, 2008.

  • Ça smoke Heaven ?

    Excerpt from a game of Counter strike global offensive, personal recording, 2018.

  • Che belle patate

    Market scene, 2019

  • Chicken or beef

    Mic soundcheck before a Five Finger Death Punch Concert, Casper, WY, 2012.

  • Commence the fuel dump

    Air traffic controller and pilot having a conversation, 1998.

  • Consonne, voyelle

    Excerpt of the television game show Des chiffres et des lettres, Antenne 2, 1972.

  • C’est de l’Éluard

    Jean-Michel Royer and Georges Pompidou, excerpt from a press conference, ORTF, 1969.

  • Dad it's going under

    Dialog between a girl and her dad on a boat, YouTube video, 2012.

  • Des silences médiatiques

    Excerpt of the show Les Pieds sur terre, France Culture, 2010.

  • Deux euros de plus

    Commentator of the running of the bulls in Camargue, personal recording, 2019.

  • Enfin quand même

    Voicemail message, 2015.

  • Est-ce que vous avez rêvé ?

    Nicolas Bouvier, Pierre Stucki, excerpt from the scientific show Dimensions, RTS, 1975.

  • Et il y en a partout

    Excerpt from the TV program Faites entrer l’accusé, 2008

  • Faut pas me troubler

    Gilles Deleuze, excerpt of a lecture at the University of Paris VIII-Vincennes, 1981.

  • Hooo !

    Shepherd’s call, excerpt of Le berger, la stagiaire et les moutons by Robin Hunzinger, Arte Radio, 2005.

  • I got you bro

    Teenager playing Fortnite, personal recording, 2018.

  • I wanted you

    Laurie Anderson, excerpt of the album Big Science, 1982.

  • I was a young boy

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

  • Il va y avoir un grand silence

    Message sent to a Whatsapp group during the strike against pension reform, 2020.

  • J'allais te tuer

    Teenager playing Fortnite, personal recording, 2018.

  • J'espère vraiment qu'ça va s'arrêter

    Jérôme, excerpt from the show Radio Tisto, l’émission des jeunes de l’hôpital de jour d’Antony, Radio Libertaire, 2020.

  • Je fais un temps

    Grégoire Monsaingeon, excerpt of a recording by Joris Lacoste and Jeanne Revel, 2005.

  • Kombirkorm atsivest ?

    Prank call to a prostitute by a radio host, luthianian radio, 2014

  • L'arrivée du crabe mystique

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

  • L'éblouissement

    Les Pieds sur Terre, France Culture, 2010.
  • L'otage d'aucun clan

    Ségolène Royal, excerpt of a statement made after the first round of the French presidential elections, 2007.

  • La balle ou la tasse

    Dialogue between a neuro-psychologist and her patient, excerpt from the documentary Journey to the center of the brain, France Culture, 2018.

  • La duperie de soi-même

    Jon Elster, excerpt of a lecture at the Collège de France, 2009.

  • La fonction du père

    Maud Mannoni, extrait du film Quartier Lacan d'Emil Weiss, 2001

  • La mort

    Jacques Lacan, excerpt of a conference held at the University of Louvain, 1972.

  • La musique

    Anne Fagot-Largeault, excerpt of a lecture at the Collège de France, 2009.

  • La question est tellement bonne

    Raphaël Enthoven and Michael Edwards, excerpt of the show Les Nouveaux chemins de la connaissance, 2009.

  • Le carrefour Mabillon

    Georges Perec, excerpt of the radio essay Tentative de description de choses vues au carrefour Mabillon le 19 mai 1978, France Culture, 1978.

  • Le personnage de Anna

    Juliette Binoche and Michel Boujout, excerpt of the show Cinéma cinémas, Antenne 2, 1986.

  • Le petit bidon

    Christophe Tarkos, Le petit bidon, Centre Pompidou, 1999.

  • Les outils

    Claude Royet-Journoud, excerpt of a reading of Théorie des prépositions at the cipM (Marseille), 2008.

  • Les silences sont parlants, hein

    Patricia Martin, Jean-Marc Four, Pierrick Bolnau, Cyril Grasiani, excerpt of the 7-9am weekend news hour, France Inter, 2014.

  • Ma3ame3 A3maki

    Poetry reading on Egyptian television, 2012.

  • Mme Von Almen ?

    Zouc, excerpt of the comedy sketch Le Téléphone, 1977.

  • My dear friend Ted

    Senator Robert Byrd, excerpt of a statement to the United States Senate, 2008.

  • On a fait une belle run

    Excerpt from a stream of Dead Cells par At0miumVOD, vidéo Youtube, 2018.

  • On ne tire pas musculairement

    Exercice de respiration dans un cours de chant, enregistrement personnel, 2012.

  • Paris presse Le Monde

    Scene from a train station, personal recording, 2013.

  • Que lo siento mucho

    Interview with a repentant ETA terrorist, 2015. 

  • Réactionnaire

    Jean-Pierre Léaud and Elsa Leroy, excerpt of the film Masculin, féminin by Jean-Luc Godard, 1966.

  • Reverse reverb

    Excerpt of a tutorial for Ableton Live, YouTube, 2009.

  • S dnom tebya rozhdeniya

    Reprimands to a dog, video posted on YouTube, 2018

  • Saboter l'État

    Michel Foucault, excerpt of the show Autoportrait, Radio Canada, 1971.

  • Sarà un fantasma!

    Raffaella Gardon and Antonio, recording by Nicolas Rollet, 2014.

  • Soyons ensemble les derniers

    Hubert Wulfranc, reaction to the terrorist attack in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 2016. 

  • Tchaïky y ya

    Extrait d’une lettre vidéo envoyée pendant le confinement, 2020.

  • Tiens bon ma puce

    Message posted on YouTube, 2014.

  • Tous les matins

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

  • Tu es mon autre

    Excerpt of a YouTube video, year unknown.

  • Un croc de boucher

    Dominique de Villepin, excerpt of a statement to press just outside of the Clearstream trial, 2009.

  • Un problema

    Chiara Gallerani, excerpt of a phone conversation, recording by Joris Lacoste, 2012.

  • Vips drömmar

    Child learning to read, personal recording, Sweden, 2017. 

  • X’emozzjoni

    Joseph Muscat, excerpt from a campaign speech, Malta, 2017.

  • Yannick y’a des plaques

    Extrait d'une partie en ligne de Call of Duty, 2020.

  • You're trying to eat me, hey?

    Negociation between a man and a coyote, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2008.

  • Zhiva ona ili net ?

    Phone call, personal recording, 2018

  • Zum Beispiel Bündnerfleisch

    Hans Rudolf Merz, extrait d’un discours au Conseil fédéral suisse, 2010.

Vips drömmar

Child learning to read, personal recording, Sweden, 2017. 

Ça smoke Heaven ?

Excerpt from a game of Counter strike global offensive, personal recording, 2018.


Director's instructions on the shooting of a porn movie, 2000s.