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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2015, Issue 207


The poetry of sound and the sound of poetry: Navajo poetry, phonological iconicity, and linguistic relativity

Anthony K. Webster
Published Online: 2015-07-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0065


This article takes seriously Edward Sapir’s observation about poetry as an example of linguistic relativity. Taking my cue from Dwight Bolinger’s “word affinities,” this article reports on the ways sounds of poetry evoke and convoke imaginative possibilities through phonological iconicity. In working with Navajos in translating poetry, I have come to appreciate the sound suggestiveness of that poetry and the imaginative possibilities that are bound up in the sounds of Navajo. It seems that just such sound suggestiveness via phonological iconicity and the ways they orient our imaginations are a crucial locus for thinking through linguistic relativities.

Keywords: Navajo; poetry; phonological iconicity; linguistic relativity; aesthetics


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-07-15

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 279–301, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0065.

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