Huh here, Huh there, Huh everywhere?

It is universally appropriate to respond to news of this study by saying aloud the word “huh”, a close reading of the study suggests:

Is ‘Huh?’ a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items,” Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, N.J. Enfield, PLoS ONE, 8(11), 2013, e78273. The authors, at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, both in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, explain:

“From a systematic comparison of 10 spoken languages [Cha’palaa, Dutch, Icelandic, Italian, Lao, Mandarin Chinese, Murriny Patha, Russian, Siwu, and Spanish] from 5 continents we find evidence suggesting that a word like ‘Huh?’–used as a ‘repair initiator’ when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said–is a universal word. There are two distinct claims being made here: 1. that Huh? is universal, and 2. that Huh? is a word.”

Detail from the study:

huh-map

(Thanks to investigator Gary Dryfoos for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (unrelated): Huh‘s “Providing Approximate Answers Using Data Abstraction, Fuzzy Relation, and Thesaurus

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