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Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items

Figure 1

Interjections for other-initiation of repair in thirty-one languages.

A word like huh? –used to initiate repair when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said– is found in roughly the same form in spoken languages across the globe. Languages 1–10 are examined in detail in the present study, 11–20 from [14], 21–31 from sources cited. Locations are approximate. 1. Cha'palaa 2. Icelandic ha 3. Spanish e↗ 4. Siwu ã:↗ 5. Dutch h↗ 6. Italian ε:↗ 7. Russian a:↗ 8. Lao hã:↗ 9. Mandarin Chinese ã:↗ 10. Murrinh-Patha a:↗ 11. ‡Âkhoe Hai//om hε↗ 12. Chintang hã↗ 13. Duna 14. English hã↗ 15. French 16. Hungarian hm↗/ha↗ 17. Kri ha:↗ 18. Tzeltal hai↗ 19. Yélî Dnye 20. Yurakaré æ↗ 21. Lahu hãi [38] 22. Tai/Lue hy ˘↗/há↗ [92] 23. Japanese e↗ [93] 24. Korean e↗ [94] 25. German h [95] 26. Norwegian h[96] 27. Herero e↗ [97] 28. Kikongo e↗ [98] 29. Tzotzil e↗ [99] 30. Bequia Creole ha:↗ [100] 31. Zapotec aj↗ [101].

Figure 1

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078273.g001