Researchers Reveal The One Word That Can Be Understood Almost Universally

By Meera Dolasia on November 16, 2013

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What is the one word that you can speak in almost any country in the world and be understood? If your response to that is 'Huh?' - You are absolutely right! This three letter word that we often use to express our confusion or unclearness is apparently used in almost the same form, all the way from Ghana to Laos and even Iceland!

This revelation that was published on November 8th in the scientific journal PLOS One, was made by a team of researchers from Netherlands-based Max Planck Institute. Mark Dingemanse, Fransisco Torreira and Nick Enfield who are currently conducting a major cross-linguistic study funded by the European Research Council recorded and listened to 20 informal conversations in 10 different languages. When they discovered that 'Huh?' appears in some form in all of them, they performed a cursory study of 21 other languages, which also showed the same trend. What was even more surprising was that many like Siwu spoken in Ghana, Cha'palaa spoken in Ecuador and Murriny Patha, spoken by some Australian Aborigines, were not even mainstream languages.

And while most of us don't think of 'Huh?' as a real vocabulary word, the researchers insist it is - that's because it has to be learnt in slightly different forms in each language. In English it is of course 'Huh?', in Mandarin Chinese and Lao it's 'A?', in Spanish it's 'E?' and the list goes on. And while spelt slightly differently, it is pronounced in almost the same manner and more importantly means the same thing - puzzlement or confusion.

So how did 'Huh?' become such a universal word? The linguists believe that when humans are unable to respond appropriately to anything that is said, they look for a quick out - A word like 'Huh?' is quick to say when nothing else comes to mind. And since humans no matter what language they speak are inherently the same, they ended up with a similar solution by using minimum letters to pronounce questioning syllables like 'Huh?', 'A?,' 'E'?' etc. So the next time someone asks you how many languages you speak, you can answer multiple and while that may be stretching the truth a little, you would definitely not be lying.

Resources: dailymail.co.uk, plosone.org

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111 Comments
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  • midnighthowler
    midnighthowlerMonday, July 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm
    I LIKE TACOS!
    • bibliophile
      bibliophileSaturday, October 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm
      Me too!!!!
    • torrentialrain1
      torrentialrain1Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm
      Cool!
      • cupcakeMonday, May 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm
        that is really cool that you can that it means the same thing but in a different language. awesome!!!!!
        • edmodo-upd5tnjjks
          edmodo-upd5tnjjksThursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:00 am
          That would be really surprising if it was true.
          • kittycutie
            kittycutieMonday, March 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm
            Umm.. I think it is.
          • awesomenessTuesday, April 22, 2014 at 10:20 pm
            so COOL
            • meMonday, April 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm
              AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
              • IzzyMonday, March 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm
                Awesome!!! HA!
                • hihigocatThursday, March 6, 2014 at 4:08 pm
                  mazemaster, there aren't 10000000000 languages
                  • hihigocatThursday, March 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm
                    I speak every single lanuage
                    • hihigocatThursday, March 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm
                      how many languages are there on earth?

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