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The Two Meanings of Sound Symbolism

Hilke Elsen
Published Online: 2017-10-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0024


This article deals with sound symbolism and the ways to interpret sound symbolic phenomena. Sound symbolism appears to be a universal phenomenon but linguists tend to neglect it or offer heterogeneous approaches and definitions. This paper is concerned with the role of motivation, as assumed in cases like cuckoo, and the question whether some sound symbolic effects might be the result of acquired statistical knowledge about the language system. The author argues that several aspects of sound symbolism such as natural/iconic or habitual relationships between sound and (facets of) referents interact but should be considered separately to gain a more realistic insight into the working of sound symbolism.

Keywords: Iconicity; definitions; size-sound symbolism; names; language universals; phonestheme


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About the article

Received: 2017-03-29

Accepted: 2017-09-24

Published Online: 2017-10-28

Published in Print: 2017-10-26

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 491–499, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0024.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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