One Word Universally Understood


CBS Philly

By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Are there words understood universally across countries and cultures? Well, according to The New York Times a team of linguists has proposed the word “huh” in an article titled The Syllable Everyone Recognizes.

In a paper just published in the journal PLUS One by a group of linguists in the Netherlands, it reported “strikingly similar” versions from five different continents in 10 languages including Mandarin Chinese, Icelandic, Dutch and those from South Africa and Australia, suggesting that “Huh?” is a universal word.

Some researchers have made the claim that “mama” and “papa” are universal but they have many variations. As a way to get clarification during conversation, there appears to be none other than “huh?”

The study challenges the view that language is part of an inborn grammatical structure, argued by Noam Chomsky, but instead “huh” which may not even be a…

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