Date: Wed, 11 Oct 1995 12:26:10 -0400


Subject: Re: Who's got the right one, baby (UH-HUH)?

re: uh-uh

i really wonder about that etymology (from africa). i think the

characterization of it as a "grunt" is part of what makes me

suspicious. "grunting" is a frequent stereotype of african languages

by americans who've never heard them.

my west african knowledge is almost all second hand, but none of the

sounds here seem right--the glottals and the central vowel.

agreement and disagreement sounds i know from africa are "ee"

and "oo". in beng (southern mande lg of cote d'ivoire--dictionaries

now available from indiana u. ling. club, plug plug), agreement is

"ee" with low tones, but the negative "not" is "E" with a high tone.

but then again, all these long vowels might be susceptible to

separation by glottalization in a non-tonal language, maybe.

one thing beng does have that might be related to an uh-uh is "n`n'"

(that is, low-high tones) for agreement. (the same tone pattern used

with "oo" is also agreement.) i'm, of course, not saying this came

from beng--i don't think they figured greatly in the slave trade--but

this is the type of thing that is likely to be an areal, rather than

genetic feature, don't you think?

so, after a defensive start, i'd say maybe uh-huh and uh-uh do have

african origins.