“A fundamental tenet of linguistic science is that the sound of a word* has a purely arbitrary connection to the word's* meaning. Thus, the sound of the word* dog in English is connected to the concept ‘dog’ by historical accident and not by any natural connection; roughly the same concept is just as well denoted in French by chien, in German by hund, and in Japanese by inu. But it is not that a word* can have just any vocal sound. While the possibility space for sound systems of the world's language is enormous, any given language makes use of only a restricted portion of the possible sounds. It follows from these two basic principles –the ‘arbitrariness of the sign’, and the ‘selectiveness of particular sound systems’– that the words* that exist in the world's languages should sound quite different from each other, and that the likelihood that there are universal words* is extremely small.

After speaker* G makes a statement, speaker* E utters the interjection huh?. This is followed by a repetition of the original statement by G. The technical term for this type of sequence is “open other-initiated repair”: repair is initiated not by the speaker* of the first turn but by the other participant (“other-initiated”), and the repair initiator signals that there is a problem, but it leaves open what the problem is.”



Text adapted from the article “Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items” by Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, N. J. Enfield