Hello Hullo allò

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Hello Hullo allò

Post by PhilHunt » Mon May 05, 2008 12:38 pm

The other day my 2 month old baby started making noises very similar to 'hello'....I swear he will talk before he walks. I started wondering if the word hello was very ancient and possibly one of the earliest sounds we are able to produce. However the word hallo (holla, hollo) is first recorded in the 16th Century as a way to attract attention. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, perhaps it originated from 'holla!' meaning to stop.
Modern usage is from the use of the telephone hence French say allò as a telephone greeting but Bonjour normally. However, I know that Spanish has the greeting 'Hola' which is not related to the use of the telephone and I wonder if this is connected to the earlier origin and not the later, in which case, at what point did the Spanish start using Hola as a greeting and did it coincide with the British usage? Questions, questions!

This however is not the main reason I'm posting. The Etymology site comes with this nice quote from Fowler to accompany 'hello':
"Hello, formerly an Americanism, is now nearly as common as hullo in Britain (Say who you are; do not just say 'hello' is the warning given in our telephone directories) and the Englishman cannot be expected to give up the right to say hello if he likes it better than his native hullo. [H.W. Fowler, "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage," 1926]
I'm English and I can't remember the last time I saw anyone write hullo in either a letter, email or modern literature. Do any of you from the British Isles still use it?
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by dalehileman » Mon May 05, 2008 4:48 pm

Hi Phil, don't guarantee this will be of any help and maybe you've even been there, but

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=he ... gle+Search
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Phil White » Mon May 05, 2008 5:13 pm

PhilHunt wrote:... I started wondering if the word hello was very ancient and possibly one of the earliest sounds we are able to produce. ...
I'll leave the etymology of "hello" to Ken et al.

Research indicates that the first sounds babies generally make are /p/, /b/ and /m/. The reason most commonly forwarded is that they use similar muscle (lip) movements to those used in breast feeding. These are followed by consonants using the tongue (don't even ask): /t/, /d/ and /n/. If you add these to an open vowel somewhere between a shwa /ə/ and an /a/ (approximately an open mid shwa /ɐ/) and repeat them, you end up with the components of
  • mama
  • papa
  • baba
  • ima
  • abba
  • nana
  • dada
and endless variants.

Most languages associate these sounds with parents, close relatives or self (the baby), presumably because parents expect their babies to be calling for them or recognizing them.

The /m/ sound is usually the very first consonant a child makes systematically, and the association of the "ma(ma)" sound with the mother is strong in very many languages, but that's not universal.

/h/ and /l/ tend to come quite late (/l/ in particular is generally only acquired after 48 months) as babies learn to speak those languages which have them (and many languages lack one or both of these consonants completely).

Prather, Hedrick & Kern show the following ages at which 90% of English-raised children pronounce the relevant phonemes correctly:
< 36 months36 -48 months> 48 months
/p, t, k, m, n, j, h//b, d, ɡ, f, s, ŋ, w//ʧ, ʤ, v, θ, ð, z, ʃ, ʒ, l, ɹ/
This means that /l/ is only acquired at around the same time as those awful "th" sounds /θ/, /ð/ in English.

The UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database contains statistical analyses for 451 languages including the frequency of each phoneme. Of the 919 different (phonetic) segments identified in these languages, the one that occurs in most languages is - you guessed it - /m/, albeit only in 94.2 % of all languages. /h/ occurs in 69.1% of languages investigated and /l/ occurs in only 38.6%.

So, no, "hello" is not one of the sounds or sound combinations that naturally come very early in language development.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon May 05, 2008 6:37 pm

My prodigious daughter's first words were "Hey Bub".
Make every effort to be there when the little guy discovers responsive verbal communication. It is a momentous occasion.
I recognized that moment with a friend's baby at a picnic....he and I exchanged "raspberries" several times....I could watch his little forehead expressing the intense brain activity inside. His parents called that night to tell me I had been right (they'd missed it earlier) and were ecstatic.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 05, 2008 7:10 pm

My mother tells me that my first words were "Is that the light at the end of the tunnel, or is it a train coming the other way?"
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Tony Farg » Mon May 05, 2008 7:12 pm

My daughter told me a while back that Italians answer the phone with "pronto" (meaning, I think, "ready").
This seems far from 'ullo and its variants.
As an Englishman, I have to say that if I were writing it I would spell it "hello", but on examinng what I actually say, I find that unless I am being somewhat arch, what it normally sounds like is "hullo" or " 'ullo".
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by PhilHunt » Mon May 05, 2008 7:13 pm

Thank you Phil et al for your input. I had indeed checked out the links about the origin of the word before posting. There's even an archived post on this very site from 2004 on the origin.
What PhilW wrote about early speech patterns is very interesting, especially as my child seems to fly in the face of convention. I swear he says '[h]ello'.

Has anyone got any input on the second question I posed?
Any of you Brits, ex or otherwise, use 'hullo' anymore?
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Tony Farg » Mon May 05, 2008 7:14 pm

bad timing!
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon May 05, 2008 7:29 pm

Phil H., Congratulations on the new arrival. May your sleep be restful throughout the night and may your little guy soon be reciting Shakespeare, but only during the day! (<;)
________________

Ken - May 5, 2008

P.S. I just checked myself out as to how I say HELLO and, to my surprise, it is HULLO. I wonder if this is a vestige of my New York City upbringing.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 05, 2008 7:42 pm

In general, parents are highly motivated to interpret the random sounds their baby makes as carrying meaning when those sounds merely coincide with 'dada', 'mama' or whatever.

Unless a child's first words take the form of a complete phrase or sentence I believe it is rarely possible to be sure which sounds are random and which ones are meaningful words.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Bobinwales » Mon May 05, 2008 8:01 pm

I and everyone I can think of says hullo, but would always spell it hello.
I didn't realise that it is an Americanism.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Phil White » Mon May 05, 2008 10:07 pm

"Hello", "hullo" (and sometimes "hallo") are usually transcribed as the ubiquitous schwa /ə/, although I think that most people pronounce it a little more open than that. Have a look at the dictionary entry on the vowel quadrilateral for some information on placing vowels.

The schwa is written in many different ways in traditional English orthography:
  • like the 'a' in about [əˈbaʊt]
  • like the 'e' in taken [ˈteɪkən]
  • like the 'i' in pencil [ˈpɛnsəl]
  • like the 'o' in eloquent [ˈɛləkwənt]
  • like the 'u' in supply [səˈplaɪ]
  • like the 'y' in sibyl [ˈsɪbəl]
Attempts to pronounce "hello" or "hullo" as it is spelled are generally hypercorrections based on the written form and don't match the normal spoken form. Otherwise, "hullo/hello" is just another spelling difference between US and UK.

Looking this up on the web suddenly reminded me how much bollix is written on the various language blogs. Some people want to try to see semantic differences, others social differences. Some call on pragmatics (without knowing what the word means) and one vastly entertaining little offering suggests that hello "... turns out to be a prime example of a pragmatic summarizing symbol that reflects the complexity of the American unconscious". Wonderful! That has cheered me up no end today.

Unless the first vowel is stressed ("well hello there!" or perhaps "Haaallo" when calling to someone at some distance), the differences in orthography are simply traditions. "Hullo" was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the UK, but has lost ground fast in the last 60 years or so, to the extent that it is now rare. That, as far as I see it, is the whole story.
Last edited by Phil White on Mon May 05, 2008 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Rant added
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 06, 2008 7:49 am

The etymology of HELLO was discussed at hi [hello / hullo -- Forum Admin.] back in 2004. However, I just checked the Oxford English Dictionary and found that they have significantly revised their HELLO listing in the March, 2008, update (reorganized, new quotes, etc.). Since my contribution to that posting reflects the older information, I will be revising it in the next few days.
_________________

Ken G - May 5, 2008
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by PhilHunt » Tue May 06, 2008 10:06 am

Tony Farg wrote:My daughter told me a while back that Italians answer the phone with "pronto" (meaning, I think, "ready").
This seems far from 'ullo and its variants.
Tony, it is true that Italians say 'Pronto' when they answer the phone but this is not a varient from 'hullo' but rather a reflection of the Italian culture and the way its language is steeped in servitude. Another example of this is 'ciao' which comes from the phrase 's-ciào vostro' meaning 'I am your slave'. Also, when you go into a shop the shop assistant might say 'mi comanda' meaning 'command me' or 'give me my orders'.

History may also play a part in this. You must also remember that the use of 'hello' on the phone was started in the time of Alexander Graham Bell. Two Italian inventors are credited with first suggesting and developing the idea of a telephone. Innocenzo Manzetti and Antonio Meucci. Antonio Meucci was the first person to patent a 'telegraph' machine but he couldn't afford to renew the patent beyond two years after which Bell patented his 'electric telegraph'. There's an interesting article on Wiki about it Antonio Meucci.
Italy was in a very unstable state at the time of the invention so perhaps the adoption of an American word was not so quick in coming.
Accoding to Telecom Italia's website the first telephone trials happened in 1878 in the presence of the Royal Family, who are quoted as being 'highly satisfied'. By 1879 every telegrpah office was linked to the telephone network. In 1881 the first concessions are awarded to operate a telephone service to a private company and nine hundred subscribers sign up but then an interesting developement:
1892
The first telephone industry regulations are passed (Law no. 184, 7 April 1892). Though formally leaving the industry open to private enterprise, these regulations discourage operations through a reversion clause whereby after fifteen years, companies are to hand over their equipment to the State at the end of the concession period. This significantly slows down development of the telephone system in Italy, which quickly falls behind other European nations, where the State actively develop the industry, and the United States, where private enterprise is given free rein.
It seems that after this the phone system doesn't really take off nationally until 1900+ and then were going into the first world war and after that, in 1922, facism. So perhaps history and isolationism had a lot to do with hindering the adoption of foreign words at that time. I know that Mussolini was very against adopting foreign words and even tried to create an Italian term for Jazz, which I forget now and never really took hold anyway.

I'm only musing on the possible developements of the word, not stating facts so anyone, feel free to correct me.
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Re: Hello Hullo allò

Post by PhilHunt » Tue May 06, 2008 10:32 am

Phil White wrote:"Hello", "hullo" (and sometimes "hallo") are usually transcribed as the ubiquitous schwa /ə/, although I think that most people pronounce it a little more open than that.
I'm with you on that. I also find the use of schwa to be different from culture to culture. For example, if you look up 'secretary' in the online dictionary you always get the US pronunciation /ˈsɛkrɪˌtɛri/ [sek-ri-ter-ee] (sěk'rĭ-těr'ē) but most people I know in the UK say something closer to [sek-ri-tree] In fact my Collins has the pronunciation as ['sekrətri] which makes sense since it's a British dictionary. This can be very confusing to a learner of English who tends to believe that everyone pronounces a word the same way, even if it isn't true for their own country.

I bet that if you got a cross section of English mother tongue speakers from across the globe and got them to read the list of word which PhilW listed many of them would not make the schwa sound in many of the places indicated. In fact, I'll go out on a limb here, I find that English people (not Scottish and Welsh) use the schwa more than other English speakers.
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