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Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items

Overview of attention for article published in PLOS ONE, November 2013
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • Among the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#44 of 185,967)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (99th percentile)

Citations

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125 Dimensions

Readers on

mendeley
218 Mendeley
citeulike
2 CiteULike
Title
Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items
Published in
PLOS ONE, November 2013
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0078273
Pubmed ID
Authors

Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, N. J. Enfield

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.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 2,366 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 218 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United Kingdom 5 2%
United States 4 2%
France 2 <1%
Japan 2 <1%
Switzerland 1 <1%
Italy 1 <1%
Brazil 1 <1%
Sweden 1 <1%
Netherlands 1 <1%
Other 4 2%
Unknown 196 90%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 43 20%
Researcher 38 17%
Student > Master 38 17%
Student > Bachelor 19 9%
Other 15 7%
Other 45 21%
Unknown 20 9%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Linguistics 57 26%
Psychology 28 13%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 24 11%
Social Sciences 16 7%
Computer Science 12 6%
Other 57 26%
Unknown 24 11%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 1671. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 14 June 2022.
All research outputs
#4,816
of 21,753,060 outputs
Outputs from PLOS ONE
#44
of 185,967 outputs
Outputs of similar age
#25
of 210,951 outputs
Outputs of similar age from PLOS ONE
#2
of 4,231 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 21,753,060 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 185,967 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 14.7. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 210,951 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 4,231 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.