And the word was ‘Um’
It’s easy to treat the humble filler word as insignificant. We’re talking the ‘huh’, ‘ums’ ‘likes’ and ‘ahs’ of the world – the little titters that your English teacher worked so hard to eliminate from your vocabulary.
Well, linguist Nick Enfield thinks you should blatantly ignore your teacher’s advice and shout your filler words from the rooftops. Through an analysis of languages globally, Nick has found that these filler words have much more importance in human behaviour than we give them credit for. Join his talk to find out how these seemingly pointless words are not only universal but indispensable to how we communicate.
Thanks to the word ‘huh’, Nick Enfield’s co-authored study won an Ig Nobel Prize for improbable research (it’s a thing). A professor of linguistics and the head of the University’s Post-Truth Initiative, Nick is fascinated by the inner-workings of language and what it can teach us about human history, the mind and our evolutionary past.
His research on language, culture, and mind focuses on social interaction, specialising on the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Science magazine, and the Times Literary Supplement.