"hun hun" way to say "no" [uh-uh; uh-huh]

atjwal

Member
fr
When you ask a question, people often answer with a "hun hun" meaning "no".
Do I spell that "hun hun" correctly ?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    For me it's uh-uh for 'no', uh-huh for 'yes'.

    In speech, of course, they have quite different intonation patterns:)
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I have to admit, every time I see this written in a book I never know whether it's supposed to be a positive un-hunh or a negative un-hunh or even an interrogative un-hunh. The spelling is rather arbirtary, I find.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I have to admit, every time I see this written in a book I never know whether it's supposed to be a positive un-hunh or a negative un-hunh or even an interrogative un-hunh. The spelling is rather arbirtary, I find.
    Even when there is a spelling difference, it's just a single letter, so the reader really has to stop and puzzle out what you're saying... not what you want in a good story.

    These two expressions are best left to conversation... and even then you have to have good hearing and a mumbler with good enunciation.
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    Uh-huh = yes
    uh-uh = no
    uh-oh! = expression of dread
    a-ha! = expression of delighted realisation

    Well that's what I'd put anyhow.
     

    tanp0p0

    Member
    Vietnamese
    Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
    uh-huh /ʌˈhʌ/ /ˈʌ.hʌ/
    exclamation INFORMAL
    a written representation of the sound that people sometimes make in order to give certainty to, agree with or show understanding of something that has just been said:
    "Did you hear what I just said?" "Uh-huh."
    "You know that strange guy we saw yesterday?" "Uh-huh."
    "I'll be back a little late because I'm going via town." "Uh-huh."

    uh-uh /ˈʎˌʎ/
    exclamation MAINLY US INFORMAL
    a written representation of the sound that people sometimes make to give a negative answer:
    "You didn't have time to go to the store?" "Uh-uh, no chance."

    Google Dictionary


    • Uh huh is used in writing to represent a sound that people make when they are agreeing with you, when they want to show that they understand what you are saying, or when they are answering `yes' to a question. CONVENTION informal
      • `Did she?'—`Uh huh.'
      • `Oh that one'—`Uh huh.
    • uh-uh
      • the way of writing the sound/ˈʌ ʌ/that people make when they are answering ‘No’ to a question exclamation
    Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

    uh huh /ʌ ˈhʌ,ˈʌ hʌ/ interjection informal
    a sound that you make to say 'yes', or when you want someone to continue what they are saying
     'Can I sit here?' 'Uh huh.'

    uh-uh /ˈʌ ʌ/ interjection informal
    a sound that you make to say 'no'
     'Is Paul here yet?' 'Uh-uh.'
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hello wanabee. :)

    If you look at our dictionary's entry for uh-uh, you will see the phonetic spelling ˈʌʌ/.
    Our dictionary doesn't have a sound clip, if that is what you need. However, if you go below the definition there and click on these links, each of them has a sound clip:
    Look up "uh-uh" at Merriam-Webster
    Look up "uh-uh" at dictionary.com

    The two pronunciations are different. It's true that there is a lot of variety in the way people say this, but it also varies with the context. To my ear, the pronunciation of the Merriam-Webster clip sounds more like what an adult might say, while the one at dictionary.com sounds like a young person telling someone else that what they said is wrong, or inaccurate.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, Cagey.

    I wanted to know the phonetic spelling but the sound clips surely helped me a lot.
    So I guess unh-uh is pronounced ˈʌnʌ/.

    And I appreciate your impressions on how the adult and young might say "uh-uh" respectively. - it's impossible for us learners to obtain from any other source.
     
    Last edited:

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Thank you very much, Cagey.

    I wanted to know the phonetic spelling but the sound clips surely helped me a lot.
    So I guess unh-uh is pronounced ˈʌnʌ/.
    I understand unh-uh as being a nonstandard spelling of uh-uh--and yes, I think that uh-uh does indeed have a standard spelling. Enter uh-uh at www.onelook.com and you will see that most dictionaries have this spelling, with one having in addition the spelling uh uh. The spelling unh-uh appears only in Wictionary.

    Two sources that mention that the vowels in uh-uh are nasalized (like un in un bon vin blanc in traditional French pronunciation[1]) are the dictionary at www.merriam-webster.com and Teaching Pronunciation by Cambridge University Press, which pronunciation can be seen at Google Books here. Please note that the Merriam-Webster dictionary uses a schwa to represent /ʌ/. It represents the nasalization with a superscript /n/.

    Both vowels are nasalized. If you try to say uh-uh with a simple schwa for the second syllable, it doesn't sound right.

    Note
    [1] I say "traditional" because many contemporary French speakers pronounce un with a different vowel, the same vowel as in vin.
     
    Last edited:

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I've never seen unh-uh, but I've often seen unh-unh. Google yields around 128k results for that spelling, and onelook.com lists three dictionaries that use it.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I've never seen unh-uh, but I've often seen unh-unh. Google yields around 128k results for that spelling, and onelook.com lists three dictionaries that use it.
    It is also in the Oxford English Dictionary. For its entries "uh-uh," "uh-huh," and "unh-unh," it gives as pronunciations for those words, respectively, /ʌˈʌ/, /ˈʌhʌ/, and /ˈʌ̃ʌ̃/, but the pronunciation sections for "uh-uh" and "uh-huh" refer the reader to a 1982 cite (under the entry "uh-huh") from J.C. Wells Accents of English III. vi. 556, which discusses the pronunciation of uh-huh and uh-uh:

    The first, ‘yes’, is phonetically [ˈə̃hə̃, ˈʌ̃hʌ̃, ˈmm̥m], hence nasal or nasalized; it usually has a rising tone pattern... The second, ‘no’, is [ˈʔəʔˈʔə, ˈʔʌ̃ʔˈʔʌ, ˈʔmʔˈm]..; it is not necessarily nasal, and has an accented final syllable, with an obligatorily falling tone pattern.
    He includes the glottal stops and nasalizations. I'm surprised that Wells says that uh-uh is "not necessarily nasal," but I have a lot of respect for his observations.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I agree with Panj above that the glottal stop is essential for uh-uh. The British phonologist John Wells represents it this way here: ˌʔʌʔˈʌʔ

    Cross-posted with mplsray
     
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