Categories across language and cognition -
Ideophones and Sound Symbolism
Ideophones (also known as expressives or mimetics) are marked sound-symbolic words that depict sensory imagery. Ideophones are found abundantly in Asian, African and Amerindian languages but they are rare as a word class in Indo-European languages. Straddling boundaries that have long been considered self-evident in Western thought (such as the traditional model of the five, or perception vs. emotion vs. cognition), ideophones provide a unique view of how linguistic systems can be adapted to express perception and sensation.
Work on this project focuses on (1) the typology of ideophones and (2) the functions of sound symbolism. In the typology part, we collect comparative data from languages around the world with the aim to develop a multidimensional characterisation of ideophones, allowing not only a coarse classification of languages as having or not havingideophones, but a multidimensional assessment of each language individually. In the sound symbolism part, we use observational methods to study the role of sound-symbolic words in everyday interaction, and we use experimental methods to study the extent to which sound symbolic mappings are shared across languages.