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

Category: Ideophones

  • Good press for ideophones!

    Dutch national quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad featured an extensive interview on ideophones and my research this weekend in their Science section, written by Berthold van Maris. There’s no online version of the article, but here is a PDF version if you read Dutch (or even if you just want to appreciate the look of Siwu […]

  • ‘Do ideophones really stand out that much?’ (with sound clips)

    Today’s question: do ideophones really stand out that much? This is something you can only decide for yourself. Here are three examples from Siwu. They come from my corpus of everyday discourse and represent the three most common ideophone constructions. These three constructions account for 88% of 230 ideophone tokens in the corpus; the examples thus can be said to be typical of ideophone usage in day to day conversations in Siwu

  • The power of vivid suggestion

    On the whole, however, it is safer to see ideophones and similar sounds as proof of their users’ sensitive feeling for language, a deep sensitive attachment to sounds and their power of vivid suggestion or representation. In many cases, a speaker or oral artist can avoid an ideophone by simply duplicating a word of action: […]

  • Slides for ‘Ideophones in unexpected places’

    Slides for my recent paper ‘Ideophones in unexpected places’, presented at LDLT2 in London, November 13-14. Though the inquisitive rooster in the title slide may not be looking for them, there are ideophones for just about any salient feature depicted in this scene. But what are people using them for? And what specialized uses may […]

  • Oh no! Ideophones are not response cries!

    Looking for a published version of this? These observations about ideophones vs. interjections also appear in a 2021 OUP Handbook article: Dingemanse, M. (2021). Ideophones. In E. van Lier (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Word Classes. Oxford University Press. doi: 10.31234/ In their commentary on Evans & Levinson’s recent hotly debated Myth of Language Universals […]

  • Coming up: LDLT2 in London

    LDLT2, the 2nd conference on Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory, will be held in London this weekend. I’m looking forward to plenaries by Larry Hyman and Tania Kuteva, and to many other interesting talks. The very last slot on Saturday (17:00-17:30) is reserved for a paper titled ‘Ideophones in unexpected places’ by yours truly. I […]

  • Intangible and abstruse

      Intangible and abstruse the bright silk of the sunlight Pours down in manifest splendor, You can neither stroke the precise word with your hand Nor shut it down under a box-lid. Tsze Sze’s Second Thesis Ezra Pound, The Unwobbling Pivot, 1947   Taro Gomi said: “So linguists do not deal with onomatopoeic expressions. Or […]

  • Early sources on African ideophones, part IV: S.W. Koelle on Kanuri, 1854

    It is high time for a continuation of our series honouring the ancestors of ideophone studies. Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle is one of the founding fathers of African linguistics, and 1854 was one of his more productive years. In the same year, besides his Kanuri grammar (from which the excerpt below is taken), he issued what […]

  • Slides for ‘The interaction of syntax and expressivity in Siwu ideophones’

    Slides for a talk titled The interaction of syntax and expressivity in Siwu ideophones, presented in Berkeley at the 2009 International Conference on RRG, August 9, 2009. The handout can be downloaded here. The slides are also available as a PDF file. You can cite this presentation as follows: Dingemanse, Mark. 2009. “The interaction of […]

  • Ideophones around the web

    With another busy summer gone, here is a post highlighting some of the stuff that’s floated by in the ideophonic blogosphere. I haven’t seen anything like last year’s ideophonic earrings, but we do have more news on Sotho siks!, the introduction of ideophones in the Nyungwe Bible, and a postcard from Taiwan on ideophones in […]

  • Upcoming talk: Ezra Pound among the Mawu

    Up next week: the Seventh Biennial Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature (programme here), at Victoria College, University of Toronto, June 9-14, 2009. It looks like an interesting bunch of linguists and literary theorists. I will give a talk on Tuesday the 9th, the abstract for which can be found below. Ezra Pound among […]

  • Two talks on ideophones at SOAS

    If you’re in London and able to come to SOAS at short notice, there will be two talks on ideophones tomorrow afternoon: one by my colleague Sylvia Tufvesson and one by myself. The talks will be on Wednesday, 3 June, 3-5pm, in room 4418 in SOAS. Here are the titles and abstracts: Phonosemantics and perceptual […]

  • How is Sotho siks! doing?

    In a neat 1965 paper on ideophones in Southern Sotho, Daniel P. Kunene writes about an ideophone derived from a gesture: There is an interesting and amusing case of the coining of an ideophone from the type of gesture used. The gesture for running is clenched fingers, outstretched thumb pointing upwards and wiggled from side […]

  • A cultural revival?

    Jedesmal, wenn ein Solo beendet hat, fällt der ganze Chor ein und singt einen Refrain, der aber nur aus den verschiedenen Vokalen besteht, die auf alle möglichen und unmöglichen Arten ausgesprochen werden, also eigentlich immer dasselbe. Interessant wäre es, einen solchen Gesang aufzunehmen. (Kruse, Krankheit und Tod in Akpafu, 1911, p. 192) Everytime when a […]

  • Giggles follow-up: smiling verbs and happy adjectives show facial motor resonances

    Just a quick follow-up on my earlier post. Foroni & Semin (in press, Psychological Science) do what I hoped somebody did: examining the bodily grounding of non-ideophonic vocabulary related to emotional states. Theirs is not an imaging study like Osaka & Osaka 2005, but a study of motor resonance in facial muscles. The terms tested […]

  • Giggles and gargles

    A 2005 study suggests that Japanese ideophones of laughter activate striatal reward centers in the brain, but I think the results should be treated with a pinch of salt. Speaking of salt, Japanese gargle with salt water regularly as a prevention against the common cold; they even have an ideophone for it (but so do […]

  • In Siwu, gunpowder doesn’t just go BANG!

    Below follows an abstract for a talk I will be giving later this year at WOCAL 6. Ideophones are marked words that depict sensory imagery (cf. Voeltz and Kilian-Hatz 2001). This paper presents results of an ongoing research project into the linguistic and cultural ecology of ideophones in Siwu, a Ghana-Togo-Mountain language spoken north of […]

  • 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 […]

  • Zap! Pow! Kraaakkkk! Ideophones for involvement at FeedBurner

    FeedBurner, a service for managing RSS feeds, provided us with a nice example of ideophonic language on its corporate blog last year: Starting right now, you just log into your Blogger account, select Settings | Site Feed, enter your FeedBurner feed address and click “Save Settings.” Zap! Pow! Kraaakkkk! Now you’ve got the complete picture […]

  • Mumbling and other mouth sensations: Ideophone proeverij II (with sound clips)

    With three mouth-related ideophones we’ve got a true proeverij this time. Welcome to dinner! You’re invited to try the first ideophone on the menu, mùkùmùkù. Feel free to sustain the mumbling to get some feeling for the word. Mùkùmùkùmùkùmùkù. The mumbling mouth movements of a toothless person. This is quite a special ideophone in that […]