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“Ha ha ha. Looks like the case is closed, ha ha ha” A Corpus Study of Imitative Interjections in the English Language


  • Sigrid Sundmark

Summary, in English

The focus of this bachelor’s essay is to investigate non-lexical interjections. In this study, imitative interjection proves to be an appropriate term for interjections such as mm-hmm and wow, with non-lexical properties distinguishing them from hey and yes. This essay aims to explore if this specific group can be extracted from a corpus, and further, if it is possible to detect any similarities and/or conventionalization in the spelling of these samples. The research will also examine how the extracted imitative interjections are used in sentences to analyze what they mean. This research is relevant since there are few studies on this exact topic. Furthermore, it might be useful to scholars and linguists who study the correlation between speech and writing.
According to the material in this research an interjections is a type of speech insert, producing a command or exclamation that can stand independently from other words. The same is true for imitative interjections, which are the main focus of this essay. Regular interjections have lexical words such as yeah, alas and bye! Moreover, there are units with abnormal features, such as oh, ha and uh-huh. Therefore, the imitative interjections differ from the regular interjections in two major aspects. Firstly, they have atypical grammatical structure and secondly, they imitate an emotional response through sound.
The corpora used in this research are The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and The Movie Corpus (MC). The searches in both databases have been for tagged interjections and from there the imitative interjections were extracted. However, the study revealed that the corpus tags could be inaccurate, including examples that were abbreviations or e.g. a half of a word instead of an imitative interjection. The primary finding in this essay is that imitative interjections are highly conventionalized and commonly used. However, their spelling might vary and even their emotional charge may change depending on the context they appear in. Often one and the same imitative interjection can change as a consequence of the speaker’s intonation. Ponder the expression “Oh great!”. Can it really be said to always be positive?


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • interjection
  • imitative interjection
  • onomatopoeia
  • spoken language
  • sound symbolism
  • semantics
  • linguistics
  • exclamative
  • comics
  • oh
  • hmm
  • aha.


  • Satu Manninen (Professor)