‘Poetry in ordinary language’: Evans-Pritchard on ideophones

If one had to sum up their character in a short phrase one might say that they are poetry in ordinary language ; and one feels that no other sounds would serve the purpose equally well of evoking sensations which compose the meaning, just as one cannot think that any possible line could be substituted for, shall we say, “For ever piping songs for ever new”.
(Evans-Pritchard 1962:145)

The reference to Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn is particularly apt because Ezra Pound (ABC of reading, p. 63ff.) discusses Keats’ poetry in a chapter on the means of charging language to the utmost possible degree — which is exactly what ideophones do.

  1. Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1962. Ideophones in Zande. Sudan Notes and Records 34: 143-146.
  2. Pound, Ezra. 1934. ABC of Reading. London: Routledge.

1 thought on “‘Poetry in ordinary language’: Evans-Pritchard on ideophones”

  1. This is a really nice citation. And Evans-Pritchard is certainly correct when he writes they are, “poetry in ordinary language.”

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