Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

STUF - Language Typology and Universals

Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung

Editor-in-Chief: Stolz, Thomas

CiteScore 2017: 0.19

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.166
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.506

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 70, Issue 2


Expressiveness and system integration: On the typology of ideophones, with special reference to Siwu

Mark Dingemanse
Published Online: 2017-07-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/stuf-2017-0018


Ideophones are often described as words that are highly expressive and morphosyntactically marginal. A study of ideophones in everyday conversations in Siwu (Kwa, eastern Ghana) reveals a landscape of variation and change that sheds light on some larger questions in the morphosyntactic typology of ideophones. This article documents a trade-off between expressiveness and morphosyntactic integration, with high expressiveness linked to low integration and vice versa. It also describes a pathway for deideophonization and finds that frequency of use influences the degree to which ideophones can come to be more like ordinary words. The findings have implications for processes of (de)ideophonization, ideophone borrowing, and ideophone typology. A key point is that the internal diversity we find in naturally occurring data, far from being mere noise, is patterned variation that can help us to get a handle on the factors shaping ideophone systems within and across languages.

Keywords: ideophones; expressiveness; morphosyntax; prosody; frequency


  • Akita, Kimi. 2009. A grammar of sound-symbolic words in Japanese: Theoretical approaches to iconic and lexical properties of Japanese mimetics. PhD dissertation, Kobe University. http://www.lib.kobe-u.ac.jp/handle_gakui/D1004724.

  • Akita, Kimi. 2012. Toward a frame-semantic definition of sound-symbolic words: A collocational analysis of Japanese mimetics. Cognitive Linguistics 23(1). 67–90.Google Scholar

  • Alpher, Barry. 2001. Ideophones in interaction with intonation and the expression of new information in some indigenous languages of Australia. In F. K. Erhard Voeltz & Christa Kilian-Hatz (eds.), Ideophones, 9–14. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Bartens, Angela. 2000. Ideophones and sound symbolism in Atlantic Creoles. Saarijärvi: Gummerus Printing.Google Scholar

  • Blench, Roger. 2010. The sensory world: Ideophones in Africa and elsewhere. In Anne Storch (ed.), Perception of the invisible: Religion, historical semantics and the role of perceptive verbs, 275–296. Cologne: Köppe.Google Scholar

  • Bodomo, Adams B. 2006. The structure of ideophones in African and Asian languages: The case of Dagaare and Cantonese. In John M. Mugane, John P. Hutchison & Dee A. Worman (eds.), Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics in Broad Perspectives, 203–213. Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bybee, Joan L. 2007. Frequency of use and the organization of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Childs, G. Tucker. 1988. The phonology and morphology of Kisi. PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar

  • Childs, G. Tucker. 1994a. African Ideophones. In Leanne Hinton, Johanna Nichols & John J. Ohala (eds.), Sound symbolism, 178–204. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Childs, G. Tucker. 1994b. Expressiveness in contact situations: The fate of African ideophones. Journal of Pidgin and Creole languages 9(2). 257–282.Google Scholar

  • De Sousa, Hilário. 2011. Ideophonic compounds in East and Southeast Asia, presented at the Association for Linguistic Typology 9th Biennial Conference, Hong Kong.Google Scholar

  • Dhoorre, Cabdulqaadir Salaad & Mauro Tosco. 1998. 111 Somali ideophones. Journal of African Cultural Studies 11(2). 125–156.Google Scholar

  • Diffloth, Gérard. 1972. Notes on expressive meaning. Chicago Linguistic Society 8. 440–447.Google Scholar

  • Diffloth, Gérard. 1976. Expressives in Semai. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications (13). 249–264.Google Scholar

  • Dingemanse, Mark. 2012. Advances in the cross-linguistic study of ideophones. Language and Linguistics Compass 6(10). 654–672.Google Scholar

  • Dingemanse, Mark. 2015. Ideophones and reduplication: Depiction, description, and the interpretation of repeated talk in discourse. Studies in Language 39(4). 946–970.Google Scholar

  • Dingemanse, Mark & Simeon Floyd. 2014. Conversation across cultures. In Nick J. Enfield, Paul Kockelman & Jack Sidnell (eds.), Cambridge handbook of linguistic anthropology, 434–464. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Dwyer, David & Lioba Moshi. 2003. Primary and grammaticalized ideophones. In John M. Mugane (ed.), Linguistic typology and representation of African languages, 173–185. Trenton: Africa World Press.Google Scholar

  • Emeneau, Murray B. 1969. Onomatopoetics in the Indian linguistic area. Language 45(2).274–299.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Enfield, Nick J. 2008. Transmission biases in linguistic epidemiology. Journal of Language Contact 2. 299–310.Google Scholar

  • Evans, Nicholas & David Wilkins. 2000. In the mind’s ear: The semantic extensions of perception verbs in Australian languages. Language 76(3). 546–592.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ford, Kevin. 1988. Structural features of the Central Togo languages. In Mary Esther & Kropp Dakubu (ed.), The languages of Ghana, 126–154. London: Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

  • Gomi, Taro. 1989. An illustrated dictionary of Japanese onomatopoeic expressions. Transl. by J. Turrent. Tokyo: Japan Times.Google Scholar

  • Güldemann, Tom. 2008. Quotative indexes in African languages: A synchronic and diachronic survey. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Haspelmath, Martin. 2010. Comparative concepts and descriptive categories in crosslinguistic studies. Language 86(3). 663–687.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Johnson, Marion M. 1976. Toward a definition of the ideophone in Bantu. Working Papers in Linguistics 21. 240–253.Google Scholar

  • Kilian-Hatz, Christa. 1999. Ideophone: Eine typologische Untersuchung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung afrikanischer Sprachen. Habilitationsschrift, Universität zu Köln.Google Scholar

  • Kilian-Hatz, Christa. 2001. Universality and diversity: Ideophones from Baka and Kxoe. In F. K. Erhard Voeltz & Christa Kilian-Hatz (eds.), Ideophones, 155–163. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Kilian-Hatz, Christa. 2006. Ideophones. In Keith Brown (ed.), Encyclopedia of language & linguistics, 508–512. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar

  • Kita, Sotaro. 1997. Two-dimensional semantic analysis of Japanese mimetics. Linguistics 35. 379–415.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kossmann, Maarten. in press. Sub-Saharan influence on Tuareg morphology: The case of full reduplication. In [Festschrift], edited by Rainer Vossen.Google Scholar

  • Kruspe, Nicole. 2004. A grammar of Semelai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kunene, Daniel P. 1965. The ideophone in Southern Sotho. Journal of African Languages 4. 19–39.Google Scholar

  • Le Guen, Olivier. 2012. Ideophones in Yucatec Maya. In Proceedings of the SSILA V Conference, 26. Austin, TX.Google Scholar

  • Liberman, Mark. 1975. The intonational system of English. PhD dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar

  • Matras, Yaron. 2007. The borrowability of structural categories. In Yaron Matras & Jeannette Sakel (eds.), Grammatical borrowing in cross-linguistic perspective, 31–73. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1945. Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar

  • Mtintsilana, Priscilla N. & Rose Morris. 1988. Terminography in African languages in South Africa. South African Journal of African Languages 8(4). 109–113.Google Scholar

  • Nakagawa, Hirosi. 2011. A first report on G|Ui ideophones. In Osamu Hieda, Christa König & Hirosi Nakagawa (eds.), Geographical typology and linguistic areas: With special reference to Africa, 279–286. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Newman, Paul. 1968. Ideophones from a syntactic point of view. Journal of West AfricanLanguages 5. 107–117.Google Scholar

  • Newman, Paul. 2001. Are ideophones really as weird and extra-systematic as linguists make them out to be? In F. K. Erhard Voeltz & Christa Kilian-Hatz (eds.), Ideophones, 251–258. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Nuckolls, Janis B. 1996. Sounds like life: Sound-symbolic grammar, performance, andcognition in Pastaza Quechua. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Nuckolls, Janis B. 2004. To be or to be not ideophonically impoverished. In Wai Fong Chiang, Elaine Chun, Laura Mahalingappa & Siri Mehus (eds.), SALSA XI: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Symposium about Language and Society, 131–142. Austin: University of Texas.Google Scholar

  • Samarin, William J. 1970. Inventory and choice in expressive language. Word 26. 153–169.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Selting, Margret. 1994. Emphatic speech style – with special focus on the prosodic signalling of heightened emotive involvement in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 22(3/4). 375–408.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Shintel, Hadas, Howard C. Nusbaum & Arika Okrent. 2006. Analog acoustic expression in speech communication. Journal of Memory and Language 55(2). 167–177.Google Scholar

  • Storch, Anne & Rainer Vossen. 2007. Odours and colours in Nilotic: Comparative case studies. In Mechthild Reh & Doris L. Payne (eds.), Advances in Nilo-Saharan linguistics, proceedings of the 8th Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium, 101–121. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.Google Scholar

  • Voeltz, F. K. Erhard & Kilian-Hatz, Christa (eds.) 2001. Ideophones. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Zipf, George K. 1935. The psycho-biology of language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar

  • Zwicky, Arnold M. & Geoffrey K. Pullum. 1987. Plain morphology and expressive morphology. In John Aske, Natasha Beery, Laura Michaelis & Hana Filip (eds.), Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, VII. 330–340. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-07-14

Published in Print: 2017-07-26

Citation Information: STUF - Language Typology and Universals, Volume 70, Issue 2, Pages 363–385, ISSN (Online) 2196-7148, ISSN (Print) 1867-8319, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/stuf-2017-0018.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Marcus Perlman, Hannah Little, Bill Thompson, and Robin L. Thompson
Frontiers in Psychology, 2018, Volume 9
Lindsay Ferrara and Gabrielle Hodge
Frontiers in Psychology, 2018, Volume 9

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in