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tripe's avatar

Do they say "um" in other languages?

Asked by tripe (146points) March 10th, 2010

is “um” universal like laughing?

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22 Answers

stump's avatar

In Spanish class we were encouraged to use “pues” instead of um.

andrew's avatar

Vocal nonfluencies change between languages. I seem to remember ‘tja’ in German, but mattbrowne would be able to confirm that.

lilikoi's avatar

Turkish people I know always say uhhhhghhhhhhhhhghhhhhhhhghhhhhhghh.

Makes’m sound like retards.

the100thmonkey's avatar

As a filler to play for time (I’d never heard them called nonfluencies before!), the Japanese will say “eto…” , sometimes appended with “ne” -> “eto ne…”, or even “Sou da/desu, ne….”

So, no – it’s not universal. Nor, indeed, is a nod for yes and a shake for no.

AstroChuck's avatar

I suppose it’s said everywhere while eating.

Um um um.

deepdivercwa55m's avatar

yes sure its not even a word its mostly just a sound!!

ucme's avatar

Sum but not all.

antimatter's avatar

Yes. Politicians like using that.

Fyrius's avatar

I dare say every language will have some equivalent of “um”. That part is quite possibly universal. Just what people vocalise when they need some more time to think probably depends on where you are on the globe, though you’ll probably never find anything that takes any serious effort to articulate.

The Dutch say “um” and “uh” too, but we’re right next to you guys in the language family tree.

starshine's avatar

I call um “a thinking word” because I always say it when I’m trying to think of what to say next. unfortunately, saying um a whole bunch while you’re talking makes you sound kind of dumb. But I would say pretty much every language has some kind of thinking word, it might not be “um” but it probably means the same thing…“not sure what to say next, so I’ll say…um”

Jeruba's avatar

I hear several people from the UK (England and Scotland both) say “em.” Don’t know if that’s universal; just an observation of a few particulars.

susanc's avatar

In some books I see @Jeruba‘s “em” spelt (sic) “erm”. But of course Brits don’t pronounce an “r” if they can help it.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

The tendency to fill a pause with a vowel sound is somewhat universal, but the specific sound isn’t.

For example, Spanish speakers are a lot more likely to say “ehh” than “um”. French speakers I’ve talked with have said “ooh” (kind of in between ‘ooh” and “uh”).

susanc's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Yes yes! French speakers make that extended “eu” when stalling for time. Hyper charming, I think.

Fyrius's avatar

Is there really all that much difference between American-English “uh” and French “euh”?
I think the only difference is a trifle more lip rounding in the French version. I’d hardly describe it as close to “ooh”.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Fyrius: There certainly is a difference. They’re different phonemes.

Fyrius's avatar

Are they?
Phoneme definitions are language-specific. The French “euh” phoneme doesn’t even exist in English, and I don’t think the American “uh” exists in French either. In that situation, what does it mean to say they’re “different phonemes”? Surely it’s not the usual criterion that their difference can be used to tell two otherwise identical words apart.

And across languages, it’s certainly possible for a sound that’s a phoneme in language A and one that’s a phoneme in language B to be practically identical. It’s a truism that every language has the vowel /ə/, for example, because it’s just the sound you get when you articulate as little as possible. (And laziness is universal.)
And if the Americans are used to having their tongue roots a bit retracted, and the French are used to having their lips a bit rounded, then what we’ve been describing as “uh” and “euh” could be thought of as their local varieties of /ə/, no?

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Yes, I believe they are different. The English “uh” is more central, while the French version (that I’m thinking of anyway) is further back, and definitely higher.

Fyrius's avatar

Well, I don’t doubt that there’s some difference.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s hmm in German.

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