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

New publications on ideophones

Just out: A new issue of the journal Senses & Society, featuring research by a dozen contributors to the Language of Perception project. This special issue, edited by Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, also features two articles on ideophones: one by Sylvia Tufvesson and one by yours truly.

Sylvia’s article is entitled Analogy-making in the Semai Sensory World. You can find the electronic version via the DOI or download the PDF directly. Abstract:

Sylvia Tufvesson, Analogy-making in the Semai Sensory World

In the interplay between language, culture, and perception, iconicity structures our representations of what we experience. By examining secondary iconicity in sensory vocabulary, this study draws attention to diagrammatic qualities in human interaction with, and representation of, the sensory world. In Semai (Mon-Khmer, Aslian), spoken on Peninsular Malaysia, sensory experiences are encoded by expressives. Expressives display a diagrammatic iconic structure whereby related sensory experiences receive related linguistic forms. Through this type of form-meaning mapping, gradient relationships in the perceptual world receive gradient linguistic representations. Form-meaning mapping such as this enables speakers to categorize sensory events into types and subtypes of perceptions, and provide sensory specifics of various kinds. This study illustrates how a diagrammatic iconic structure within sensory vocabulary creates networks of relational sensory knowledge. Through analogy, speakers draw on this knowledge to comprehend sensory referents and create new unconventional forms, which are easily understood by other members of the community. Analogy-making such as this allows speakers to capture fine-grained differences between sensory events, and effectively guide each other through the Semai sensory landscape.

My article is titled Ideophones and the Aesthetics of Everyday Language in a West-African Society. You can find the electronic version via the DOI or download the PDF directly. Abstract:

Mark Dingemanse, Ideophones and the Aesthetics of Everyday Language in a West-African Society

This article explores language, culture, and the perceptual world as reflected in a particular linguistic device: ideophones, marked words that depict sensory imagery. Data from a range of elicitation tasks shows that ideophones are a key resource in talking about sensory perception in Siwu. Their use in everyday conversations underlines their communicative versatility while at the same time showing that people delight in their expressiveness. In ideophones, we have an expressive resource that combines sheer playfulness with extraordinary precision

References

  1. Dingemanse, Mark. 2011. Ideophones and the aesthetics of everyday language in a West-African society. The Senses and Society 6(1). 77-85. doi:10.2752/174589311X12893982233830.  
  2. Tufvesson, Sylvia. 2011. Analogy-making in the Semai Sensory World. The Senses and Society 6(1). 86-95. doi:10.2752/174589311X12893982233876.  
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