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Is “Huh?” a Universal Word?

LuisPlus
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From Reddit: "Huh" is the universal word, say linguists. "Huh" is not innate (other primates don't say it), but the circumstances of its use (needing to quickly and briefly prompt another speaker to repeat herself) are universal, so languages that share no commonalities still converged on this word.

Research article: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0078273

4 years ago

39 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/olimo
olimo
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Now we can brag about knowing at least one word in any language :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
pont
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Alas, it appears from the article that the exact forms of the huh-words are merely similar rather than identical across languages (and they only looked at 10 languages out of 6000)... still, I think they're similar enough that you would get the meaning across. Table 2 states that a Russian "huh" is identical to a Murriny Patha (an Australian aboriginal language) "huh", which is quite entertaining.

Also, hooray for open access! Very nice to get the whole paper without paying €39 to Elsevier or Springer.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/javax
javax
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That's the spirit! :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hdcanis
hdcanis
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Not exactly like that, in Finnish it's "häh?" "Huh" in Finnish is more like "whew" in English, "used to express surprise, relief, or a feeling of being very hot or tired." And does not really work as a question.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hdcanis
hdcanis
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Ok, looked at the article and within the variation given in those languages "häh" fits in. But it's not like the exact vocal sound don't matter...(hah, heh, hih and hoh as interjections refer to different types of laughter, hyh is disgust and höh is disappointment)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
Dessamator
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Interesting, and although I haven't done any research on it. I think "AAAU", and "AAAhhhhh!!" are probably the universal words for pain.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elsentrix
elsentrix
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In Australian its "Bloody Hell!" :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenTheGeek

Also in British!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Iwerddon
Iwerddon
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Also in Ireland!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
pont
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In Swedish it's "Aj!", pronounced (roughly) "Aiee".

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OlderThanRome
OlderThanRome
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In Afrikaans, it's "Eina!" (pronounced ay-nuh)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Houndour
Houndour
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In Hebrew we say "aya!" or "ach" (pronounced like 'acht' in German (the number 8) without the 't').

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
Mod
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LOL Certainly an automatic onomatopoeia of sorts ;) As for words, in Japanese it is いたい (i.ta.i).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/espi731

In Persian we say "Akh!" in which 'kh' is pronounced like 'ch' in German "Munich". also if you pronounce vowel 'A' very short, it means "yuck!".

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/larmitz

Unless you're Canadian,eh?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Matt.Cooksey

I know what you're talking abowoot. lol

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Szab
Szab
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?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DanielPere528188
DanielPere528188
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Huh, interessante

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrArbo
HerrArbo
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In Scotland and N. England it tends to be "eh?"

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CadetheBruce
CadetheBruce
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And in Gaelic-speaking parts of Scotland they use "Duda?".

I think linguists are correct in thinking "Huh?" is universally understood even if that paper fails to clearly distinguish between it being universally understood and being a universal preference.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/-TashaJ-

Well I live in the North-West of England and most people I know say "Huh?"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrArbo
HerrArbo
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That's why I said it "tends" to be. Of course, it may not be as common as I thought. Remember though, the east and west of northern England are quite different in the way they speak. There are a lot of accents in the north, so I'm sure there are a lot of ways to say "huh?" too.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrArbo
HerrArbo
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I never say it.... :(

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TimothyGeek

Neither do I.... :(

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/javax
javax
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Hehe, I often say "Huh?" and I'm a Spanish speaker, so It must be true.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ALoUSyUseRnaME
ALoUSyUseRnaME
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Yes, but you're also an English speaker so hehe ;)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nictheman
nictheman
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In Italian it's more commonly "Ehi?" But I think the point stands.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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excuse me

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mntalateyya
mntalateyya
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In chittagonian we say "eeh" nasalised

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Matt.Cooksey

chittagonian??

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/espi731

interesting! In Persian we say "Hun" pronounced similar to "sun" in English and the 'n' tends to be nasal like a lot of French words.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/seby-07
seby-07
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In Spanish, everybody says ' Èh ?'

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NickM98
NickM98
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In Argentina we say more like "Eh?" ([e:]), but the point is the same.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
Mod
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Universal word meets universal question

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gorilla800lbs

The Ukrainian "Га?!" is practically identical to the English "Huh?" indeed. :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TerraZe
TerraZe
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I'm not surehow to spell it, but one Paulista says something like "ein" (like a long 'a' with a nasalized 'n'). I never heard her say "huh" even after she lived lived in the US for years.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/toutousmile
toutousmile
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In Cantonese it's '吓', sounds more like 'ha'

4 months ago