Defining ideophones

Revised and published as:

  • Dingemanse, M. (2019). “Ideophone” as a comparative concept. In K. Akita & P. Pardeshi (Eds.), Ideophones, Mimetics, Expressives (pp. 13–33). John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/ill.16.02din

This chapter is about the nature of ideophones as a phenomenon in human language. It defines ideophones as marked words that depict sensory imagery, a definition that is broad enough to serve as a general cross-linguistic characterization of the phenomenon while leaving room for the details to be spelled out for specific languages. I develop the argument that a fundamental characteristic of the ideophonic phenomenon is depiction, and show how this semiotic characterization throws light on many aspects of ideophony.

Audio clips

Example 2: “Our neighbours, he silenced them kananananananana” (also example 4)
Example 3: “Now this stuff here, it looks ɖɔbɔrɔɔɔɔɔ [soft]”
Extract 2.1: Geckos

Video clips

Extract 2.2: “Words that illuminate matters”
Figure 2.1: Ruben Owiafe’s explanation: “seeing as” as a key feature of ideophones