A fantastic linguistic study by Mark Dingemanse and Nick Enfield has shown that languages use three near-universal techniques to clarify potential misunderstandings. These are:
- Open Request: A general request for clarification on what was said, eg “Huh?”
- Restricted Request: Asking for repetition of a a specific word or phrase, eg “Who?”
- Restricted Offer: By repeating what was said and asking for confirmation, eg “She had a boy?”
The authors conclude that human communication has a “fundamentally cooperative nature” and that “key systems of language use may be largely similar across cultural groups … revealing a common infrastructure for social interaction which may be the universal bedrock upon which linguistic diversity rests”.
Also published on Medium.