Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity

New paper: Trilled /r/ is associated with roughness

Very happy to see this paper out! We combine comparative, lexical, historical, and psycholinguistic evidence for an in-depth look at a pervasive form of cross-modal iconicity.

For me, this goes back to ~2011, when I wondered why Siwu ideophones for roughness like wòsòròò, safaraa and dɛkpɛrɛɛ (all with trilled /r:/) felt so… rough. So something clicked when Bodo Winter told me about an intriguing link between /r/ & roughness in English in 2015

Many email threads, conversations, github commits and submissions & revisions later, we have this beast of a paper where we look at /r/~rough in sensory adjectives in English & Hungarian, trace it across hundreds of languages worldwide, and even peer back some 6 millennia in Proto-Indo-European.

It’s been such a pleasure to be part of this endeavour alongside Bodo Winter, Martón Soskuthy and Marcus Perlman. Do check out Bodo’s excellent summary in the thread linked above. And find the paper —open access!— here:

Oh, by the way, one crunchy factoid about this paper (which Marcus Perlman pointed out to us) is that the r-for-rough link persists in present-day English variants where /r/ is no longer trilled — and that it can be awakened, like a sleeping beauty, as in this ad for Ruffles chips.

Originally tweeted by (@DingemanseMark) on January 21, 2022.

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