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Primary Interjections - Universals?

From:Roger Christian <rogchr75@...>
Date:Saturday, April 6, 2002, 0:53
I am interested in what language universals would
constrain the choices of primary interjections for a
naturalistic (human) conlang.

(Primary interjections are those which are not words
with uses as other parts of speech.)

For example, compare the following interjections which
indicate pain or a bad surprise:

English            ow (pronounced /au/)
French/Spanish     aie/ay (both pronounced /ay/)
Swedish            aj (pronounced /ay/)
Icelandic         /ay/ & /au/

In my incredibly broad sample :), these interjections
are diphtongs moving from low to high, and I think
from lax to tense. English "ouch" is the same with
concluding stop. Can anyone contradict the thought
that this might be universal, that is, that
interjections for pain are back-to-front diphongs?

Meanwhile, I also wonder if primary interjections for
positive things (happiness, pleasant surprise,
curiosity, joy) are universally a low back vowel:

English             ah, oh
French              ah, oh
Hungarian           oh

And primary interjections for "tastes good," like
English yum/mmm may be universally /m:/ or at least
nasals? (Since, hypothetically, the speaker's mouth is
full.) Polish, Finnish, and Slovenian all have /m:/

The only helpful source I found on the web is a
dissertation called Sound Symbolism by Asa Abelin. I
have the pdf file, although I can't seem to find it
again online or I'd post the link. It has primary
interjections from a few European languages and
Malagasy(!) in the appendix which agree with these

I'm not sure what to think of the English interjection
"wow" in this hypothesis--maybe it's a
counter-example. Still minimally, these are at least
all extremely vocalic.

Does anyone know any languages that have anything at
all different? very different? Any thoughts on the
matter are appreciated.

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