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Huh?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:24 pm

NYT today has story about "huh?" as a common term across varying languages. On another thread we recently were talking about origins of language. This fits in nicely but deserves a thread of its own.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/09/arts/ ... nizes.html
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Re: Huh?

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:26 pm

Here we have another is it nature or nuture question. The answer to that question is always, "Yes."
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Re: Huh?

Postby gailr » Sat Nov 09, 2013 6:59 pm

I detest that syllable. So many people -- distinct from those with genuine hearing loss -- tend to react to the visual cue of another person speaking by interrupting to bark, "Huh?"

If I wait patiently the hearing/understanding part of their brain kicks in, and it turns out that they heard perfectly. The kneejerk Huh? is a rude and lazy habit occurring in all demographics I've encountered.
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Re: Huh?

Postby Slava » Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:27 am

I must admit I'm a wee bit confused here. If the study of "huh" "is part of a broader effort to challenge the dominant view that language is primarily a matter of inborn grammatical structure" wouldn't the fact that it is found independently in many different languages imply that it actually is inborn?

The one I've always heard of as being nearly universally understood is "OK."
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Re: Huh?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:43 pm

There is always a tendency to confuse research and theories about those results. Results are simply results. Answers to the question why come from another source.

The research simply shows that the word spelled and pronounced "huh" occurs in a wide variety of disparate languages. Why this is so can only be speculation.
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Re: Huh?

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:51 am

OK or okay seems to be pretty well in all languages. It is a true Americanism that has taken the world by storm. It is not "natural" whatever that means.

Huh as a question meaning, "What did you say?", however "universal" it may be, is not in my vocabulary. My centenarian grandfather had a telling little response to someone's "Huh?" He would reply, "A pig says 'Huh?' a hog knows better."
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