The Comparative Analysis of the Functioning of Interjections in the English and Spanish Languages

Interjections in language and in speech. The functioning of interjections in Spanish and English spoken discourse. Possible reasons for the choice of different ways of rendering an interjection. Strategies of the interpretation of interjections.

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, 2014


Faculty of humanities and applied sciences

Department of Grammar and History of the English Language


The Comparative Analysis of the Functioning of Interjections in the English and Spanish Languages

Student: Mironova A. Y.

Group 0-10-9

Academic Supervisor:

Machina O.A., Ph.D.,

Assistant professor of the department of Grammar and History of the English Language


Golubkova E.E., Ph.D. ,

Professor of the department of Lexicology of the English Language

Head of the Department:

Prof. Sorokina T.S., Ph.D.

Moscow, 2014











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Chapter I. Interjections in language and in speech

1.The notion and definition of the interjection

2. Classification of interjections

3. Functions of the interjections

3.1 Emotive function

3.2 Discursive functions

4. Borrowing in the class of interjections

Chapter II. The functioning of interjections in Spanish and English spoken discourse

1.Absolute and relative frequency of interjections in the Sp and AE samples

2. The use of primary and derived interjections in the AE and Sp sample

3. Absolute and relative frequency of different functions of the interjections

3.1 Emotive function

3.2 Discursive function

Chapter III. Interpretation of interjections

1. Strategies of the interpretation of interjections

2.Possible reasons for the choice of different ways of rendering an interjection




The interjection is quite a controversial unit of language. Language scholars, grammarians and linguists generally preferred to limit its role to a marginal element with respect to other aspects of language because of its nature and the difficulty in attributing it to the categories of traditional grammar. That is probably why interjections have been quite poorly analyzed. The interjection, as one of the, perhaps, least discussed upon classes of words, is the focus of this pursuit.

The aim of this paper is to trace the peculiarities of the use of interjections in two distinct languages - English and Spanish. We will try to find the differences and similarities in the functioning and frequency of interjections in the original English sample and its Spanish translation and distinguish the strategies to which translators resort in order to render interjections.

This work is topical and new, as the language and cultural variation in the use of interjections has so far been neglected.

In order to achieve our aim the following tasks were singled out:

- to study theoretical works on interjections in order to compare different approaches to the grammatical description of the interjection and work out our own interpretation of this language unit;

- to research the functions of interjections in language;

- to compare the frequency of interjections in the speech of the representatives of different nations;

- to investigate the functions performed by interjections of various types with respect to the peculiarities of both languages;

- to research the cases in which different interjections express the same function, and study their cultural variation;

- to ascertain whether there are universal interjections that can be found in the majority of languages;

- to analyze different ways of translating interjections from English to Spanish and other strategies of rendering emotions originally expressed with the help of interjections;

- to analyze the reasons for the choice of given ways of rendering.

The aim and the tasks determine the structure of the paper and the materials that were used.

The paper consists of Introduction, three Chapters, Conclusion and Bibliography.

In the Introduction the subject matter of the paper and its aims are stated.

Chapter I covers theoretical points of the work and offers a close look at different approaches to grammatical description of the notion of the interjections. It also gives a detailed classification of interjections and their various functions and provides the basis for further investigation of the peculiarities of the use of interjections in the given languages.

Chapter II is devoted to the practical analysis of the collected material, with the aim of tracing the differences and similarities in the functioning of interjections in various communicative situations by speakers of different nationalities and the characteristic features of the occurrence of interjections belonging to different classes from morphological and functional points of view with examples illustrating these peculiarities. In Chapter III we analyze the ways of rendering interjections and distinguish the strategies used for this purpose. We also provide some possible reasons for the choice of particular strategies. During the work on the paper we used theoretical books on grammar and linguistics by both Russian and foreign authors. Our analysis was carried out on the basis of two American sitcoms: How I Met Your Mother and Friends. The list of materials is presented in the Bibliography section.

The theoretical value of the paper lies in the contribution to the theory of the interjection, its functioning in language and cultural differences between the English and Spanish discourse. Our practical results may be applied to teaching. They may also be valuable for the general linguistic course as they provide a deeper insight into the problem of social variation in the use of emotive language.


1. The notion and definition of the interjection

The term interjection entered the English language probably in the 13th or 14th century from Latin interjicere (-jacere) with the meaning to throw or cast between, from inter between + jacere to throw.

The interjection has long been thought to be a linguistic "problem", because of its nature and the difficulty in putting it in the categories of traditional grammar; language scholars, grammarians and linguists therefore generally preferred to reserve it a role of a marginal element with respect to other aspects of language. However, this has not been more than an attempt to evade the problem of definition, which has led to a patent confusion about many aspects related to interjection and made it one of the most controversial issues in history of grammatical and linguistic studies. From this prospective it is not surprising, that in his work E. Sapir admits that interjections are among the least important elements of speech (E. Sapir, 1921).

As many authors point (L. Blanch 1956; A. Perez 1985; Rojas 1981; F. Ameka 1992a; V. Veiga 2003), if it goes back to Greek grammarians, the interjection was considered a subgroup of adverbs: this was the position of Dionysius of Thrace presented in his traditional classification of words in eight parts of speech. In the classification of Latins particularly in Remmio of Palaemon (first century AD.), the interjection becomes one of the eight parts of speech, since, unlike the Greeks, the Latin language lacked the class of articles and its introduction was a strategy for keeping the number of parts of speech.

However, due to the Latin grammarian Donatus the interjection was introduced with the following definition "pars orationis affectum mentis significans voce incognita" i.e. part of the sentence that means an emotion of the mind through a voice (or word) unknown.

In this prospect interjections can be considered as an expression of human affective state, that were the first words of the men which served as the starting point for the development of the first language.

Some of the definitions and theories, that link the interjection to the original language due to its primitive nature, have already been thoroughly rejected.

E.Goffman in his essay Forms of Talk includes the interjections between response cries, screams reaction, interjections not lexicalized, which are not fully words (E. Goffman, 1981).

A. Smirnitsky in the Morphology of the English Language says that interjections are opposed to notional words as being purely the elements expressing feelings and emotions that have no nominative function. (A. Smirnitsky, 1959, c. 392)

Many linguists separate discourse markers and interjections and do not include interjections in the group of discourse markers(W. Cueto, A. Lpez), some grammarians include interjections in the group together with prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs and adjectives ( L. Barhudarov, 1975).

So we may see that the interjection so long ignored by the linguists is considered mostly as a notionless expression of feelings and emotions that is syntactically independent and can function either as an independent part of a sentence or as a separate sentence. Some linguists consider it to be the ancestor of the notional words, transitional stage of inarticulate sound flow to articulate speech. However, the status of the interjection is not still specified as long as there are theories that are contrasting in the problem of the grammatical status of the interjection.

2. Classification of interjections

Two large groups can be distinguished within the entirety of English interjections on the grounds of their phonemic contents, their immediate origin and their overall formal characteristics: primary interjections and derived interjections. Primary interjections are words like aha! auh! bah! boo! coo! cor! eeeek! eh! gee! gee-whiz! ha! ha-ha! ho! hooey! hoo-ha! hoy! huh! hullo! hum! oho! ooh! oops! uh! uh-huh! uh-uh! These short forms are usually one or two syllable segments with emotions as referents, and with indisputable purpose in language communication.

Derived interjections, e.g.begone! behold! bingo! blast! blimey! bother! bullshit! crazy! crikey! damnation! the devil! doggone! god! good! goodness! gracious! grand! hell! honestly! indeed! look! nonsense! silence! so! sod! soft! son of a bitch! son of a gun! upon my soul! up with! upsy-daisey! well! woe! no wonder!, have more word-like or phrase-like forms with identifiable referents outside language or figurative meaning and are clearly suggestive of emotional reactions to linguistic or non-linguistic stimuli. They present oaths, warnings, orders, instructions or value judgments. Even though they normally belong to other word classes, their repeated use in particular situational contexts and with corresponding prosodic features and intensity qualified them for the classification in this word class.

According to Z. Tuebekova, on the basis of semantics, both primary interjections and derived interjections can be monosemantic and polysemantic (Tuebekova, 1984). Every monosemantic interjection possesses one meaning in any context. As for the polysemantic interjections, their meaning is highly context dependent, thus one and the same interjection can express a whole range of emotions in different communicative situations.

The table below illustrates the correspondence between semantic and morphological classes of interjections:

Monosemantic interjections



Primary interjections

ahem, alas, bah, er,eugh, faugh, fie, ha-hum, he-he-he, hmm, ho-ho, hum, mmm, mmmph, mps, pah, phew, pooh, pshaw, tush, tutsetc

ah, amen, aye (ay), ha, pray, ugh, umm, whew etc


blast him, bless me, bother, curse it, damn, damn it, dear dear, for God's sake, goodness me, Good Gracious, God knows, Jesus Christ etc

dear me,why, oh, dear, well, what, why, really, hell, hang it etc

language english interjection speech

The interjection Eugh in all contexts expresses disgust and can serve as an example of a monosemantic primary interjection.

1. - I saw it on Discovery channel about the jelly fish and how to EUGH! UGH!

- You peed on yourself?! Eugheugheugh!!!

2. It twisted?

a. -What twisted?

b. -Me going out with Richard's son

c. -Eugheugheugh!

On the contrary the interjection Oh, my God is evidenced as a polysemantic derived interjection. In different context it can express:

1) delight

(voice mail) -Hey, Monica, this is Chip


-Who's Chip?


(after the conversation)

- Oh my God! We were in conversation!!!

2) astonishment

(entering an empty room after everything was stolen)- Oh my God! What da hell happened here?!

3) shock + sympathy

What's tomorrow night?

-Oh God, you didn't hear? Mark died.

- Oh, Oh my God! Oh my God, we are so sorry!

4) contempt, sarcasm

(a billboard saying: Wedding blowout!) Oh my God, can you believe it-some camp out to save a few bucks.

Interjections in the English language can also be divided into several semantic groups according to the semantic fields where they belong. We can allocate the following groups which are very common in English - religious words and rude words, evaluative descriptors There can also be found some non-classified interjections.

1. Religious words.

Here belong interjections containing the words God, Gosh, Lord, Jesus Christ, Devil, etc.

Such interjections are usually used for performing different emotive functions, they can express positive emotions like surprise, anxiety and excitement, satisfaction and recognition, relief, pleasure, delight; negative emotions - fright, grief and pity, disappointment, irritation, pain, disgust and such emotions as realization or pleading.

E.g.: 1) Damn all these people. God, how I want to kiss you. I'll ring you up in the morning. (Anxiety and excitement)

2) She told me this the day she met me, at check-in two weeks earlier, when she went to shake my hand, then cried, Oh my God, you're that Heather Wells? (Surprise)

2. Rude words (expletives).

This group includes interjections like Shit, Fuck, Blimey, Bullshit.

These interjections have a form of a word or a phrase and possess figurative meaning or identifiable referents outside language. They serve as emotional reactions to linguistic or non-linguistic stimuli.

They usually express negative or unpleasant emotions and present warnings, or value judgments.

E.g.: Blimey! How much it hurts!

Shit! What the devil are you doing here?!

2) Evaluative descriptors

The third semantic group of interjections singled out includes the so called evaluative descriptors. Derived from adjectives, they help to express the speaker's attitude or give an affirmative response.

Evaluative descriptors may refer to both positive and negative feelings and emotions.

It's really a good idea! - Yeah. Wonderful. ( skeptical)

4. Non-classified

Among the frequently used non-classified interjections we may list two common interjections man and dude, and some others.

1) Oh man, I am so excited! I couldn't sleep last night! I bet you guys couldn't either.


- Only the Gala event for the Grand Opening of Sharper's Image's 500th store!

2) Dude! What's up? . I said: What's up, man!

3) Let's go!


- Hey, common, guys, it'll be great!

4) You are to go!-Ookeeey.

5) So, it's time to say good-bye, I suppose.

3. Functions of the interjections

Interjections can also be classified into functional types such as emotive/ expressive interjections, volitive/ conative and phatic interjections. This classification can be elaborated on the basis of the communication theory of R.Jakobson (1960). This linguist considers that a communicative act consists of six linguistic components: the emmiter, the receiver, the context, the channel, the message and code. Around these factors he deduced the existence of six functions of the language. These functions depend on the orientation of the speaker towards one of the six linguistic components of the communicative act.

The six functions of language that considers R. Jakobson (1960) are:

1) Emotional or expressive (emitter) e.g. interjections

2) Conative or appellate (receiver) e.g. imperatives, vocatives

3) Reference (context) e.g. messages that report on the extralinguistic world

4) Phatic (channel) e.g. maintaining contact

5) Poetics (code) e.g. poetry

6) metalinguistic (message) e.g. information about language itself.

From this classification it can be concluded that interjections perform emotional functions, conative and phatic. In other words the emitter can use the interjection to express their attitude towards a statement or extralinguistic situation (or in the emotive function), influence the receiver (or in the conative function) or control the contact with the receiver (in the phatic function).

The example of the emotive/ expressive interjection is Yippee! - the interjection uttered by one of the two friends who meet in the street by chance to express a feeling of happiness or pleasure motivated be the encounter.

As for the volitive or conative type, the interjection Psss uttered intentionally in overt communication to ask or order to be quiet can be considered as an example.

The use of the interjection in the phatic function can be illustrated by the interjection Oh as a reaction to the words of the communicative partner to express disappointment, understanding or surprise and show involvement into the dialogue.

3.1 Emotive function

However, most of the linguists suggest that the interjection's primary (or even only) function is the emotive function. Interjections are very often used to express emotions. It is important to stress here that one interjection can convey different emotions and several different interjections can be used to express the same emotion.

Below there is an attempt at grouping interjections according to their meaning, or rather, according to the predominant semantic features that their meaning is composed of, made by Vladimir . Jovanovi in his work The Form, Position And Meaning Of Interjections In English (Facta Universitatis Series: Linguistics and Literature Vol. 3, No 1, 2004, pp. 17 - 28). Thus, the group of interjections that have certain emotional expressive potential can be further diversified into different emotions that particular interjections are indicative of:


damn! damnation! the devil! doggone! fuck! ha! hang it!

hell! hunh! rats! shit! what! zounds!


bother !damn! damnation! deuce! drat! drot! mercy! merde!

oof! ouf(f)! ouch! rot! son of a bitch! spells! tut! tut-tut! zut!


hear! hear! hubba-hubba! hurrah! keno! ol! so!


bah! boo! booh! faugh! hum! humph! hunh! paff! paf! pah!

pfui! pho! phoh! phoo! phooey! pish! poof! pouf! pouff!

pooh! prut! prute! pshaw! puff! poff! quotha! rot! sho! shoo!

shuh! shah! soh! tcha! tchah! tchu! tchuh! tuh! tush! tusch!

tusche! tuch! yech! zut!


ah! ach! coo! coo-er! goody! goodygoody! whacko! wacko!

whizzo! wizzo! yippee! yip-ee!


aargh! bah! faugh! fuck! gad! humph! pah! phew! phooey!

pish! pshaw! pugh! rot! shit! shoot! ugh! yech! yuck!


hubba-hubba! wahoo! zowie!


eeeek! oh! oh, no!


chut! gah! pish! pooh! pshaw! psht! pshut! tcha! tchah!

tchu! tchuh! tut! tut-tut! why! zut!


here !here! why!


cor! corks! doggone! hell! hoot! lord! lor'! lor! lors!lordy!

lord me! merde! sapperment! shit! upon my word!


heyday! hurrah! ole! whee! whoop! whoopee! yippee!


ah! oh! ouch! ow! wow! yipe! yow!


alas! dear! dear me! ewhow! lackaday! lackadaisy! las! och!

oche! wellaway! welladay! welliday!


aha! boy! crazy! doggone! good! heigh! ho! wow! yum! yumyum!


whew! whoof!


alas! ay! eh! hech! heck! heh! lackaday! lackadaisy! las!

mavrone! och! oche! wellaway! welladay! welliday! wirra!


ah! alack! blimey! boy! caramba! coo! cor! dear! dear me!

deuce! the devil! doggone! gad! gee! gee-whiz! golly! good!

goodness! gracious! gosh! ha! heck! heigh! heigh-ho! hey!

heyday! ho! hollo! hoo-ha! huh! humph! indeed! jiminy!

lord! man! mercy! my! nu! od! oh! oho! oh, no! phew! say!

shit! so! son of a bitch! upon my soul! well! what! whoof!

whoosh! why! upon my word! wow! yow! zounds!


now! tsk!


aha! ha! hurrah! ole! so!


blimey! crazy! gee! goodness! gosh! ha! heyday! oh! what!


3.2 Discursive functions

It is obvious that interjections alongside performing an emotive function, can also serve as a discourse marker. For C. Velarde the discourse particles function is to mark relationships that exceed the limits of sentence syntax (Velarde, 1995).

Interjections functioning as discourse markers can be divided into two groups: interjections performing the textual function and those performing the interactional function.

Interjections in the textual function are used for marking or creating cohesion relations. The most commonly used are right, so, yes, year.

e.g. : So, yeah, mhm, right.

Right. Are you through with that? Shall we go further?

These are fairly neutral with respect to attitude and emotion. They serve as links between utterances.

As for interactional, these are such interjections as yeah, mhm, right, fine, okay, well, so, see; that serve as transition points, conversational interaction cues, back channel responses.

So, you'd rather I was insincere? You'd rather I lied?

However we can also say that an interjection serving as a discourse marker can also perform an emotive function.

e.g.: Ah, I didn't know you are here!

The interjection Ah performing the discursive function of introducing a speech act also performs an emotional function expressing surprise.

4. Borrowing in the Class of Interjections

One of the most productive sources of innovation in any given language is borrowing. For centuries for needs of various natures, speakers of a linguistic community have been borrowing linguistic structures from the languages used by other, genetically related or unrelated linguistic communities.

Interjections can be counted among the rather rare cases of borrowings that are not necessarily justified by the denominative needs arising with referential novelty. They are affective borrowings, and the adoption of such foreign words as interjections can probably be justified by the traditional claim of expressiveness (the more striking phonologic value) or by the prestige factor.

In other words the excessive usage of some interjections by the representatives of other linguistic communities leads to the substitution of the original interjection by a borrowed one. For example, the English interjection Ok can be found in a number of European languages, as well as some Slavonic languages, due to excessive usage by the younger generation and the use of the Internet as a global net.

We may say that borrowed interjections start as items used by specific groups, usually teenagers, which might spread successfully among all categories of speakers, but there is no guaranty of their survival over longer spans of time.

Most of the interjections borrowed are not included in the dictionaries, either due to their informal limited use, or due to their temporal character (things that are popular today are not likely to be popular tomorrow).

The Anglo-American are the most common borrowings nowadays, due to the expansion of the English language used as a language of international communication and the pervasiveness of the internet through which the process of borrowing is mostly carried out.

Usually, such borrowings are less specialized and less restricted to particular fields of activity or contexts of use. The most recent acquisitions to a number of languages (German, Spanish, Russian) in this category, dating probably to the last decades of the 20th century, seem to be English: wow, oops, ouch, cool,okay along with the slang or taboo based `swearing words' shit!, fuck!, (god)dam(n)(it)!, which have been adopted by these languages- usually - without undergoing any structural, semantic or categorization change.

Talking about the interjections borrowed from the English language by Spanish we may state that the international ok / okay as an agreement interjection imported from American English (though it has equivalents in the language: Vale, de acuerdo) is the most frequently used interjection that was borrowed.

e.g.: Okey! De acuerdo dijo.

Speaking about the interjections borrowed by the Spanish language from English we can also mention the interjection chin-chin (attested in English since 1795), as a toasting formula.

Here we can also enumerate the interjection hurr (it came to the English language as a hip, hip, hurrah!, used by the English sailors, originally from the Turkish servants that saluted the sultan with the help of this phrase), stop used in its original meaning as well as in its figurative meaning as the expression of a high degree of determination:

e.g. Stop! Aunque la muerte estuviera en la esquina con su escoba en alto, aunque la esperanza no fuera ms que una Palmira gorda.

Other latest borrowings are the interjections wow!; oops; yeah!; cool, etc.

It is important to mention here that almost all the borrowings have equivalents in the Spanish language and are mostly used by the younger generation that seek to be a part of the international community whose mother tongue is English (Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, 2006)

At the same time we may speak about the interjections borrowed by the English language from Spanish. Among this kind of borrowings, we may mention the following: (The English- Spanish Dictionary )


(US) Hello, hi, hey




to your health


Long live ... ! (used to express acclaim or support).


Thank you

Ole, ol

An expression of excitement. Hooray!

Caramba (from Spanish euphemism for carajo)

An exclamation of surprise or dismay

ay, chihuahua(from Mexican Spanish.)

1. Expression of surprise or shock.

e.g.: Ay, chihuahua! I didn't hear you coming.

2. Expression of dismay, annoyance, or resignation.

e.g.: Ay, chihuahua! The computer crashed and I'm going to have to start all over again


It is generally agreed that language and culture are closely related. Language can be viewed as a verbal expression of culture. Every nation has its own way of considering the world that surround them, and each nation develops from its own premises a set of rules, moral obligations and values which are handed down from generation to generation.

Since the social and historic background and geographic position differ from nation to nation or even from place to place in the same country, cultures may be more or less similar or different. Some cultures are emotional and frank, while others prefer to hide emotions, be reserved and demonstrate rational behavior; these differences are widely variable around the world. Cultures differ based on religious beliefs, educational systems, government, history and a wide range of other circumstances.

Being a marker of social and national identity, and a means of human communication, language bear imprints of ethnic and cultural originality. It can be reflected in the vocabulary of a language as well as in the grammatical structure of a language as it reflects the mentality and a way of thinking of a nation.

The aim of this chapter is to reveal the sociolinguistic peculiarities of the functioning of interjections among two different nations: Spaniards and Americans. We will analyze samples of spoken discourse as we admit that spoken discourse better reflects the peculiarities of the use of interjections, and provide illustrative examples.

For the purpose of our analysis we chose two American series How I Met Your Mother and Friends in the original and translated to Spanish. In accordance with our goal, it was necessary to detect the functioning of interjections in speech in the English and Spanish variants. Therefore, we singled out all the interjections which occur in the episodes that constituted our corpus of examples and analyzed them from the perspective of the differences in their use. The total sum of all interjections we have analyzed is 921. In our analysis we used the method of comparative statistics and functional analysis. We calculated the absolute and relative frequency of the interjections in the samples and compared different types and functions of interjections. Therefore, in the course of our research we pursued the following specific targets:

Study the types of interjections used in both Spanish and American English samples;

Compare the frequency of the interjections of various types in both Spanish and American English samples;

Investigate the functions performed by the interjections of various types with respect to the language differences;

Research the cases in which different interjections express the same function, and study their sociolinguistic variation;

Analyze different ways of translating interjections from English to Spanish and other strategies of rendering emotions originally expressed with the help of interjections.

In the text body of this chapter we made use of the following abbreviations:

AE - stands for American English

Sp - stands for Spanish

1. Absolute and relative frequency of interjections in the Sp and AE samples

To expose various types of interjections and trace the differences in the use of interjections in the given two languages, we have examined the speech of the characters of the selected series. The use of interjections is property of the spoken register of the language. Therefore, interjections typically appear in the direct speech of the characters.

In order to find out the overall rate of recurrence of the interjections used in AE and Sp we have analyzed the same episodes of the chosen series first in AE and then in Sp and figured out the absolute frequency of the interjections used in the samples. It has turned out that in AE interjections occur 553 times and in Sp they occur only 368 times (See Table 1). In other words, the absolute frequency of interjections in AE is higher than in the Spanish sample, what gives us grounds for speaking about the process and result of the interpretation of interjections that will be discussed in Chapter III.

2. The use of primary and derived interjections in the AE and Sp samples

Now let us take a closer look at the types of interjections used in AE and Sp.

The analysis of the two language variants of the same material revealed the difference in the frequency of the use of primary and derived interjections in AE and Sp (see Table below):




73%( 405)

40% ( 147)


27%( 148)

60% ( 221)

From this table we can see that derived interjections are more frequently used in the Spanish language than in the English language where primary interjections prevail.

The table below provides the list of interjections found in both samples organized according to their type:



Primary interjections

Oh, ah, ugh, eugh, wow, ouch, oups, hey, ow, hmm, mmm, uugh

ay, oy, ah, oh, wow, eh, ey, agh, yahoo, mmm, brr

Derived interjections

My God, God, damn, come on, fuck, yeah, holy crap, dude, man, gosh, so, okay, well, no, oh crap, ... (what, where) da hell

vaya, venga, anda, oye, vamos, Dios mo, madre ma, por amor de Dios, madre de Dios, bueno, pues, to, vale, alto, mierda, okey, ni hablar

Analyzing primary interjections we set ourselves a goal to find out whether there are universal primary interjections that can be found in the majority of languages and whether they have the same functions in all these languages.

First we decided to take up the interjection Oh that seems one of the most frequently used in the English language and that can be found in different languages

The English dictionary of interjection ( ) provides us with the following description of the functions of oh:

1. Expression of surprise.

Oh! I didn't see you there.

2. Expression of wonder, amazement, or awe.

Oh, wow! That's amazing.

3. Expression of understanding, recognition, or realization.

Oh, so that's how it works.

4. A word to precede an offhand or annoyed remark.

Oh, leave me alone.

5. A word to precede an added or comment or afterthought.

Oh, and don't forget your coat.

6. An invocation or address (similar to the vocative in languages with noun declension).

Oh, gosh

Oh, baby

7. Exclamation for drama or emphasis (often poetic).

Oh, when will it end?

8. Expression of pain.

Oh! That hurt.

9. Space filler or extra syllable, especially in (popular) music.

oh, oh, oh

10. (interrogative) Expression of mild scepticism

"You should watch where you're going!" "Oh?"

Here we may see that in the English language this interjection can express a widest range of emotions, both positive and negative, and can be used in a great number of different situations.

Now let's look at the functions of the interjections Oh in the Spanish language. The dictionary of Spanish interjections provides us with the following information:

oh!: sirve para expresar asombro, admiracin.( surprise, admiration)

Thus we may see that the Spanish interjection oh have a limited range of emotions expressed and if we compare it with the English Oh we may say that the Spanish interjection is less frequently used in the Spanish speech and in the process of translation it is usually replaced by the Spanish interjections with the similar meaning, for example the interjection Ah:

1) Oh, you are here - Ah, ests aqu.

2) Oh, hi MrsLinch, Joana has already arrived? - Ah, hola seora Linch, ya ha llegado Joana?

For the sake of further comparison we analyzed the dictionaries of interjections of some other languages.

The German dictionary (Wiktionary. ) shows that in the German language the number of emotions expressed by Oh declines drastically:

wonder, amazement

e.g.: Oh, daran habe ich nicht gedacht.

We can see that though German and English both belong to the group of Germanic languages the range of emotions rendered by the same interjection varies greatly.

Now let's look at the same interjection Oh described by the French dictionary of interjections (Wiktionary.

1. amazement and surprise

Il lit le titre, il fait oh! etil me regarde. []. En tout cas il me regarde, je le regarde, et voil que nous hochons la tte, tous les deux. -- (Vercors, La marche l'toile, ditions de Minuit, 1943, d. 1946, p. 64)

2. disappointment

Oh ! Mon quipe favorite a perdu.

3. realization

Oh ! Merci beaucoup de votre gentillesse.

4. admiration

Oh !Qu'il est beau.

5. to reinforce the meaning of the utterance

Oh !Je me vengerai.

We also looked up the meaning of the Interjection Oh in the Italian dictionary of interjections (Wiktionary.

1) surprise, wonder

Oh, che bello!

2) amazement

Oh, che succede?

3) anger

Oh, che schifo!

4) compassion

Oh, poverino...

However, though the range of emotions varies from language to language we should admit that in all the languages the function of expressing surprise or amazement is preserved, thus it may be accepted as a universal function of this interjection. One of the sources used for this analysis (Wiktionary. also proved a table that shows how the interjection Oh expressing surprise and amazement is rendered in other languages and there we may see that there can be found its equivalents with differences regarding spelling systems of different languages:

Arabic: (w), (ar) (y), (?, ?h)

Armenian: ?? (ah), ?? (h)


Mandarin: ѽ (zh) (iy), Ӵ (zh) (iy),

(different tone expresses different level of surprise)Ŷ (zh) (o, , ), (zh) (h), (zh) (n)

Czech: ach (cs)

Dutch: o (nl)

Esperanto: ho (eo)

French: oh (fr), ah (fr)

Georgian: ?? (oh), ?? (ax)

German: ach (de)

Greek: (el) (o), (el) (a)

Hiligaynon: abo

Hindi: ??? (are), ?? (he), ? (hi) (o)

Icelandic: (is)

Japanese: (ara), (ja) (oya), ܂ (m), (ja)

(), ւ (h), (ja) (o), (ja) (a)

Korean: (ko) (a), (ko) (o), (ko) (eo)

Latgalian: oi, ai, ek, a

Latvian: ak

Malay: oh

Manx: ugh

Norwegian: oi, (no), ai (no)

Persian: (fa) (ba)

Polish: och (pl), ach (pl)

Portuguese: (pt)

Russian: (ru) (o), (ru) (oj), (ru) (ax), (ru) (ox), (ru) (oh, og)

Sanskrit: ??? (aho) (for joyful or painful surprise), ?? (h), ? (o) (in common speech, informally)

Serbo-Croatian: oj

Spanish: oh (es)

Swedish: h (sv), (sv), oj (sv)

Tagalog: ay (tl)

Vietnamese: ? (vi)

Now let's move on to one more interjection that can be found in many different languages, that is the interjection Ah

Similarly to Oh the interjection Ah can be found in different languages with varying range of emotions rendered:

English dictionary:

1. expressing pleasure

e.g.: Ah, that feels good.

2. expressing realization

e.g.:Ah, now I understand.

3. expressing resignation

e.g.: Ah well, it can't be helped.

4. expressing surprise

e.g.: Ah! I've won!

Spanish dictionary:

1) Denota tristeza o decepcin. (grief, disappointment)

e.g.: - No te quiero, entiendes? No!

- Ah, pues, mmm, te endiendo

2) Indica admiracin, sorpresa, o emociones similares. ( admiration, surprise or similar emotions)

e.g.: Ah!, Qu maravilla!

3) Indica que se ha comprendido algo. (realization)

e.g.: Ah!, se me olvidaba: llmame antes de las ocho.

4) Se emplea para interrogar, cuando no se ha entendido algo. ( used to question if something is not understood)

e.g.:-Sabes que Pepe est colado por Mara?
- Ah? Qu?

French dictionary:

1) pleasure, pain, admiration, love, etc

e.g.: Ah ! Que vous me faites mal ! - Ah ! Que cela est beau !

2) reinforce the expressiveness

e.g.: Ah ! Madame, gardez-vous de le croire.

3) Sometimes accelerated to more strongly express surprise, irony and laughter

e.g.: Ah ! Ah !Vous arrivez enfin.

Italian dictionary:

4) an expression of joy or satisfaction

e.g.: De gli occhi suoi levar mi fece dono, / Ah! quanto vagamente

5) expression of anger or resignation

e.g.: Ah! Difettivi sillogismi!

6) expression of awe or wonder

e.g.:Ah, [...] - esclam Federigo [...] - Beato voi!

7) expression of sorrow or regret

e.g.: Venezia! Ah! Venezia era rimasta anche per lui una puntura

8) exclamation used in case of pain or surprise

In case of Ah we can say that it has some equivalents in the analyzed languages, though there is no universal function for all of them. Some functions such as realization, pleasure or surprise are shared by most of the languages but not all of them.

Thus we may see that there can be found some universal primary interjections that are present in the majority of languages, even if they belong to different language branches, but the meaning and the number of functions and the functions themselves may differ from language to language, though there are examples of universal functions of some primary interjections (for example, Oh expressing surprise)

Analyzing derived interjections we may say that, unlike primary interjections that are usually an instance of a pure combination of natural sounds as a reaction to some situations, derived interjections can be traced to their verbal or nominal origin. We may notice that most of the derived interjections used in the AE sample are of nominal character. For example:

Oh my God!

Oh, God!

Oh man!

Oh crap!

Holy crap!



Here are the examples of the use of these interjections:

1. (entering an empty room after everything was stolen)- Oh my God! What da hell happened here?!

2. What's tomorrow night?

- Oh God, you didn't hear? Mark died.

- Oh, Oh my God! Oh God, we are so sorry!

3. Oh man, I am so excited! I couldn't sleep last night! I bet you guys couldn't either.


- Only the Gala event for the Grand Opening of Sharper's Image's 500th store!

4. Dude! What's up? . I said: What's up, man!

5. What's this..Holy crap!

6. Man, what's up with Swarley?

7. Oh man, I am so glad you are here!

As for the interjections of the verbal character, there can be listed such interjections as Come on! and Damn (it)!



-Hey, come on, guys, it'll be great!

-I just can't tell her the truth.

-Oh, come on, Ted, it's so silly!

-I just want

-Out of question!

-Damn it!

( dropping a bottle of expensive whiskey)- Damn it, Ted!

To make this difference more illustrative we counted the number of derived interjections of nominal and verbal character in the AE sample. This diagram illustrates the results of the analysis:

From the similar analysis of the derived interjections in the Sp sample we may see that theyare mostly of a verbal origin, in the sense that they developed from different verbs, mostly with the meaning of movement. For example, Vaya! , Vamos and Qu va! developed from the forms of the verb ir( to go) and the interjections Venga! and Anda developed from the verbs venir and andar ( to come and to walk). Moreover, the interjection that is the most frequently used in the sample is a derived verbal interjection Vaya! that is, by the way, one of the interjections that have the broadest content. Another derived verbal interjection that is frequently used in the sample is the interjection Oye that is derived from a verb oir (hear). Below you can see the examples of the use of these interjections:

1. - Hey, hey, Quin era esa?

- Es Casey, nos hemos quedado por esta noche.

- Vaya,vaya!

2. Vaya, Monica, que oportunidad de influir docena de personas...

3. Venga, hombre! Qu te pasa?

4. - Oye, me encanta tu sueter!

- Oh , hablas en serio?

5. Oye, lo siento. Venga, qu quieres que te diga?

6. Anda! Mira quien ha llegado!

7. Vamos,suena increble!

8. Vamos, tenemos que ir a compras.

Among the derived interjections of nominal character that are most frequently used may be listed the following interjections: Madre ma, Dios mo, Oh Dios mo, mierda.


1. Madre de Dios, no te lo han enterado? Joana falleci esta noche.

Eso es imposible! Cmo?

Cuando sali del despacho la atropell un taxi.

Madre ma....Vaya..... eso es increble, Dios mo, Dios mo....

2. Oh, mierda! No tengo velo, Y no puedo casarme sin velo! Necesito velo.

Oh, Dios mo, vamos a casarnos!

3. Hahaha, Dios mo, he sacado el zumo por el nariz! Pero eso totalmente merece la pena! Madre ma, haba olvidado por completo de tu sonido

For the sake of comparative analysis we also carried out the same calculations of the derived interjections of verbal and nominal origin and provide the results in a form of a diagram:

The results that we received from the comparative analysis of derived interjections make us think that the origin of the interjection and the preference of this or that type of interjections may be influenced by the way we perceive the situation. Thus, the predominant role of interjections of verbal origin in Spanish helps to produce a more dynamic (as the meaning of a verb is process, which is a dynamic, changeable feature), more emotional effect, if compared to the predominance of interjections of nominal character (the categorial meaning of a noun is substance, that is something stable, having shape and equal to itself) in the AE sample. This may be a result of cultural differences, as the Spanish culture and mentality are considered to be most vivid and bright, emotions stronger and more demonstrated while Americans tend to be emotional but more reserved than Spaniards. Besides, we should bear in mind that American English is a national variant of the English language that has its roots in the English society that is more reserved than American, and it cannot but be reflected in the language.

In this section we also analyze the samples from point of view of the use of monosemantic and polysemantic interjections.

The analysis revealed that the two interjections that can express the widest range of emotions in the Spanish language are the derived interjections Vaya! and Dios mo! and their variations, the first of them being of verbal and the other of nominal character. The examples are given below:

surprise, satisfaction

-Mmmm Dios mo! Estos crapitos estn deliciosos!

-Yo he aprendido cocinar ...

- Vaya!


Vaya! Siempre me pasa lo mismo.

joy, delight

-Hey, hey, Quin era esa?

-Es Casey, nos hemos quedado por esta noche.



( about a van) -Pero vamos a sustituir esta espada con una barra de pan.



Vaya, Monica, que oportunidad de influir docena de personas...

v contempt

Oh,Dios, son Vigilantes de la playa?

v surprise, satisfaction

-Mmmm Dios mo! Estos crapitos estn deliciosos!

Yo he aprendido cocinar ...


v shock and sorrow

-Cuando sali del despacho la atropell un taxi.

- Madre ma....Vaya..... eso es increble, Dios mo, Dios mo....

v happiness, excitement

Oh, Dios mo, creo que voy a llorar!

As for the English language we may say that the primary interjection Oh is the interjection that has the broadest content. It can reflect any possible emotion, from joy to disappointment.

1) amazement, admiration

-This is the place.

- Oh, wow, Vera Wang! Oh, Robin, do you have any idea what you, guys, stayed in front of here?

2)1-irritation and despair, 2- joy and relief

-Do you know the score?!

- Sorry, I missed the game.

- Oh, God! Holy..Emet Smith! Oh, thank you, God!

3) excitement

- Oh, commercials! This monkey is hilarious!

4) disappointment

- Oh, man!

5) satisfaction

-Oh,oh yeah.

6) contempt

- Oh, really?!

Drawing the conclusion from the first part of our analysis we may say that not only the choice between derived and primary interjections differs, but also the mere character of derived interjections is different: while most of the English derived interjections are of nominal character, most of the Spanish derived interjections are of verbal character thus producing a more dynamic effect. Moreover, one of the interjections that express the widest range of emotions Vaya is a derived interjection of verbal origin. It may be interpreted as the difference in the mentality of the two nations, as the Spaniards are considered to be more emotional, dynamic, while the English are rather reserved and calm- the difference that is reflected in the structure of interjections.

4. Absolute and relative frequency of different functions of the interjections

As it was stated in Chapter 1, most of the linguists suggest that the interjection's primary (or even only) function is emotive. However some linguists argue that interjections alongside the emotive function serve as discourse markers. The diagram below shows the results of the comparative analysis of the functions of interjections found in both samples.


If we compare the percentage of the interjections serving as discourse markers and those performing the emotive function we can see that the number of emotive interjections is almost three times larger than the number of those that are discourse markers in the Spanish sample and almost the same figures can be observed in the English one. This may serve as a proof to the statement about the emotive nature of interjections and demonstrates that the emotive function is their predominant function, though there can be found interjections performing the discursive function as well.

The table below provides the list of interjections found in both samples organized according to their function:



Emotive function

Oh, ah, ugh, eugh, wow, ouch, oups, hey, ow, hmm, My God, damn, holy crap, gosh, fuck, no, man, oh crap

vaya, agh, oy, ay, eh, wow, oh, Dios mo, madre ma, por amor de Dios, madre de Dios, ni hablar, alto

Discursive function

Oh, ah, yeah, dude, man, so, okay, well

ey, bueno, pues, oye, okey, vale, ay, venga, to

Emotive function

We agree that the emotive function is the primary function of the interjection, the fact that we proved in the previous section. More than 70% of the interjections we have in the analyzed samples perform the emotive function.

It is important to stress here that one interjection can convey different emotions and several different interjections can be used to express the same emotion.

The emotions that are usually expressed with the help of interjections are: surprise, shock, delight, disappointment, sympathy, pain.

The table below illustrates all the interjections found in the samples organized according to the emotions they express:




surprise, delight

oh, wow, hey, yeah, my God

vaya, wow, oh,Dios, yahoo, anda


come on, ah, my God, yeah, hey

anda, venga, Dios,alto,eh, madre de Dios

satisfaction, pleasure

oh, yeah, mmm, my God

vaya, mmm, madre ma


oh, wow, God, gosh

oh, vaya, wow, ah, eh, Dios mo


ugh, eugh

agh, Dios mo, brr


ouch, ow, (oh) my God, damn, fuck

ay, mierda, oy


oh, my God, God, gosh, no

Dios mo, madre ma, por amor de Dios, madre de Dios,ah, vaya


holy crap, damn, (oh) man, oh crap

mierda, ah, oh, vaya,

irritation, anger

oh, uugh, damn, oh God,... da hell

mierda, vaya, Dios mo, ni hablar,

For the sake of analysis we divided emotions into positive and negative.

Positive emotions: surprise, delight, excitement, pleasure, satisfaction

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