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

One year of ideophones

Time flies vuuu. About one month ago, The Ideophone has silently celebrated its first birthday kananana. English interspersed with ideophones looks childishly weird susuusu and chaotic basabasa,1 and that is precisely tutuutu one of the issues I’ve been trying to address here: what is the nature of ideophony, and how is it connected to language ecologies and ideologies?

An overview of the best posts of 2008 on The Ideophone follows below, but first let me highlight a nice new initiative by They’ve hosted the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008, a compendium of the most popular and the best posts from various blogs all across the anthropological blogosphere. The Ideophone won prizes in the categories ‘Best Fieldtrip’ and ‘Best Illustration’. There’s the roundup and the prizes, but what I liked most were the elaborate reflections on the submissions in two substantial posts by Daniel Lende on The Relevance of Anthropology.

Best of 2008 on The Ideophone

Here is my subjective selection of the best posts over the last year, sorted from least read to most read so you know you can safely start at the top.

  1. Mumbling and other mouth sensations: Ideophone proeverij II (with sound clips)
    Some truly delicious ideophones, and the first post here to feature audio clips from field recordings.
  2. Unlocking the potential of the spoken word?
    A skeptical response to a somewhat pompous Science article about new developments in speech processing.
  3. Early sources on African ideophones, part III: ‘Onomatopoeia as a formative principle in the Negro languages’, 1886
    A bias towards SAE languages can lead the brightest minds astray. Discusses statements by Müller 1862, Whitney 1874, and Newmeyer 1992 on the extent of arbitrariness and iconicity in language. I should’ve given this post a better title.
  4. Migration stories
    Sad story on how easy it proves to be to exchange your own history for someone else’s.
  5. Under the spell of ideophones
    African ideophones in the English columns of a Ghanaian weekly.
  6. Fresh wild melon and meat full of gravy: food texture verbs in G|ui (Khoisan)
    This post first laid a link between G|ui food texture verbs and ideophones, a link that was taken up later by Nakagawa after we had a pleasant email conversation about it.
  7. Do you know this feeling?
    Fabulous illustrations of Japanese ideophones and a comparison to some Siwu ideophones.
  8. Visual corpus linguistics with Many Eyes
    A vision of what we will do with our corpus data when visualization tools become more widely available.

Finally, the most popular post overall was Zotero, an EndNote alternative. It still brings in a regular number of visitors every day searching for things like “endnote alternative” or “endnote open source alternative”. This tells me that EndNote is doing something wrong, and that Zotero is doing something very right.

That’s enough navel-gazing for a whole year. To all readers known and unknown, thank you; I’m glad you’re here. Cheers!

  1. Of course, here on an English blog the effect is partly attributable to mixing languages. Still, try to imagine an English speaker sprinkling sound effects through her words like this. It does sound childish doesn’t it? []

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