PLOS ONE2014-01-07 11:55 PM

Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items “Huh” 是一个全球通用词吗?会话基础架构和语言的趋同进化

Abstract
A word like Huh?–used as a repair initiator when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said– is found in roughly the same form and function in spoken languages across the globe. We investigate it in naturally occurring conversations in ten languages and present evidence and arguments for two distinct claims: that Huh? is universal, and that it is a word. In support of the first, we show that the similarities in form and function of this interjection across languages are much greater than expected by chance. In support of the second claim we show that it is a lexical, conventionalised form that has to be learnt, unlike grunts or emotional cries. We discuss possible reasons for the cross-linguistic similarity and propose an account in terms of convergent evolution. Huh? is a universal word not because it is innate but because it is shaped by selective pressures in an interactional environment that all languages share: that of other-initiated repair. Our proposal enhances evolutionary models of language change by suggesting that conversational infrastructure can drive the convergent cultural evolution of linguistic items. 论文摘要 类似‘Huh?’的词(用作弥补发起词,例如当某人没有清楚听见对方刚说的话时)被发现在世界各地语言中具有大致相同的形式和功能。我们调查了它在十种语言中自然发起的谈话且为两个明显的说法提供了证据和论据:即‘Huh?’世界通用,而且它是个词汇。为了支持首个说法,我们表明该叹词在不同语言中形式和功能上的相似度远高于预期中的偶然发生性。为了支持第二个说法,我们表明,不同于咕噜声或带情绪的哭声,该词是一个需要通过学习掌握的具有词汇性和习俗化的形式。我们讨论了该词汇跨语言相似性的可能原因并提出了趋同进化依据的理由。‘Huh?’之所以是一个全球通用词汇并非因为它是与生俱来的,而是由于它在所有语言共享的互动环境中被选择性压力塑形:即其他发起的修复的互动环境。我们的提议通过表明会话的基础构架可以驱使语言的文化趋同进化从而改善了语言变化的演化模型。

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