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The only word that’s used universally across the world

Article image for The only word that’s used universally across the world

Year 12 students taking the General Achievement Test (GAT) yesterday were asked to consider a perplexing question — Why is the word “huh” used in so many languages?

Ross and Russel were curious about the answer, and if the word is really universally used.

Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney, Nick Enfield, confirmed it is.

“This word, ‘huh’, is one of the only, if not the only, universal human words,” he told Ross and Russel.

“We tested a lot of languages from very diverse parts of the world and it’s a universal word as far as we know.

“It’s something that we wrote about and published on a few years ago.”

Professor Enfield said researchers believe the word is used across languages due to convergent evolution.

Researchers think it developed independently in different languages in response to environmental pressures — It is a single syllable word that’s fast and easy to say.

“A very natural thing to do to say ‘huh?’ when you have not understood or you’ve got some issue with the thing somebody has just said to you,” Professor Enfield said.

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