"Huh", or some variant of it, is universal. http://huh.ideophone.org/

Yet, I see no word for forming a question in the list of semantic primes. There's "when/time", "where/place", but no "huh" or "what". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_primes

Has anyone addressed how to form questions with semantic primes?

1 Answer 1


It's because "huh", and some other interjections and formulaics are considered by many linguists to be at a cross-road between body language and spoken/mental language. Thus, even if some interjections or formulaics are universal, many linguists don't consider them to be traditional words.

Ref.: https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_855720/component/file_855719/content

  • 1
    Can you please edit this to add some quotes or references to NSM researchers showing that this is what they'd say? Something not being a "word" is unlikely to make much of a difference to NSM researchers considering they even extend their theory to cultural scripts.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 4:55
  • @curiousdannii Done.
    – abcjme
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 11:11
  • 1
    – Bob
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 12:51

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