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)? 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. lynne --------------------------------------------------------------------- M. Lynne Murphy 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Department of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340 University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-4199 Johannesburg 2050 SOUTH AFRICA