Date: Wed, 11 Oct 1995 12:26:10 -0400
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
Subject: Re: Who's got the right one, baby (UH-HUH)?
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