A common term for expressive vocabulary in African linguistics is ‘ideophone’. It has become a tradition to cite the first paragraph of Doke’s definition in any study on ideophones:
Ideophone (Idéophone) [Ideophon] A vivid representation of an idea in sound. A word, often onomatopoeic, which describes a predicate, qualificative or adverb in respect to manner, colour, sound, smell, action, state or intensity.
Doke, Bantu Linguistic Terminology, 1935, p. 118
Samarin, in his excellent overview of ideophony in Bantu, carefully notes that ‘[i]t is reported that Doke also is responsible for creating the term ideophone, but I have not come across supporting evidence. Its first appearance seems to be in 19531 with the publication of his Bantu Linguistic Terminology.’ (Samarin 1971:132). Indeed, examples of studies crediting Doke with inventing the term are easily found; here are just a few invoking Doke’s definition2 [relegated to a footnote to save space].
The idea of ‘ideophone’ before Doke
It is little known that Doke did not actually coin this term, but just gave a new definitional twist to an already existing concept. Continue reading
- a typographical error — the bibliography to Samarin’s article cites the year as 1935 [↩]
- Some studies invoking Doke’s definition: ‘Greater uniformity was only found after Doke introduced the term “ideophone”.’ (Von Staden 1977:195)
‘Since C. M. Doke (Bantu Linguistic Terminology, 1935) introduced and defined the term ‘ideophone’ as a linguistic category for the classification of words in the Zulu languages, it has been employed variously in the description of many Bantu and non-Bantu African languages.’ (Fordyce 1983:263)
‘Le terme d’idéophone, inventé par C. M. Doke …’ (Alexandre 1966:9)
‘Doke (1935:118) first defined the ideophone as a vivid representation…’ (Nuckolls 1999:239)
‘The term ideophone first came into use among linguists specializing in African and especially Bantu languages.’ (Tedlock 1999:119)