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Are there any spoken languages where the sound connects to the thing represented by the sound?
Thread poster: sethie
sethie
Local time: 07:07
English
Aug 10, 2007

Hi all-

I have always had a knack for language and now I am finding myself interested in the thing called "language" itself.


My first question is about languages that reffer to reality.

For the most part, it seems language is totally arbitray- no reason why a table is called "a table." There is no connection between the sound "tay bull" and the object. The written word "table" contains no refference to the a table, other then a memorized association.

For example, in Chinese, the character for "male" is a picture of a field and the symbol for strength- the idea maybe being "men do the hard work in the fields" or something along those lines. Some Chinese characters to this day still have a pictoral or meaning refference that sort of connects them with the thing they are describing.

I am very curious to know about any other languages that do so. I am aware of Hieroglyphics... and would like to read more about other written languages or spoken languages which have some actual connection between the symbol (language) and the thing trying to be represented.

I am especially fascinated by sound... are there any spoken languages where the sound connects to the thing represented by the sound?


peace,

Seth


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 10:07
SITE FOUNDER
Of course you have onomatopoeia... Aug 11, 2007

English - http://www.aleeya.net/word-play/onomatopoeia/onomatopoeia/aleeya

Onomatopoeia seems to be more common / important in Japanese than in English. http://www.geocities.com/thduggie/japan/jslang.htm


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:07
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
English has many Aug 11, 2007

Henry D wrote:

English - http://www.aleeya.net/word-play/onomatopoeia/onomatopoeia/aleeya

Onomatopoeia seems to be more common / important in Japanese than in English. http://www.geocities.com/thduggie/japan/jslang.htm


English has many such words. The ones that come to mind immediately are noises: boom, buzz, fizz, plop, etc. But not the words derived from Latin or Norman French, as far as I can see. How would you represent "table" in sound, anyway?
Regards,
Jenny.


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Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:07
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
I think every laguage has some Aug 11, 2007

[quote]Jenny Forbes wrote:

Henry D wrote:


English has many such words. The ones that come to mind immediately are noises: boom, buzz, fizz, plop, etc. But not the words derived from Latin or Norman French, as far as I can see. How would you represent "table" in sound, anyway?
Regards,
Jenny.


I agree w'th Jenny/ There are more than we even th'nk/

Like; click, crack, fart etc.

But the phylosophical question of "why we even say "door" to a door can be phylofohıcally correct but for the material world, for the existance the rule is practicality.

No need to go too much back to ancient times or invention of a wheel or table, we can just go back to new technowords like xerox, copy, klinex, click, internet, googling yahoo etc.

A word comes out

1- need
2- correct time
3- uniqueness
4- acceptance/mass response of people

If it was the sound referencing a word all the time, than intangibles would be impossible.

One could express the word "fart" but could not express the "smell".

I would not look for a correlation all the time.

And I belive every language has enough number of words that fall into the category which you described.

This is true for Turkish.

Best regards


Nizam


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:07
Member
French to English
+ ...
Iconicity Aug 11, 2007

The term in linguistics for the kind of relationship you're describing is "iconicity" - if a linguistic sign or sound resembles in some way what it's supposed to represent, then it is said to be "iconic" (as opposed to arbitrary). If you do an Internet search for, for example, "iconic"/"iconicity" plus "linguistics" or something like that, then you may find more examples.

And, as others have said, one variety of this relating to sound is onomatopoeia. One example off the top of my head is "cuckoo", not only in English but also some other languages, for example Russian (кукушка - kukushka).

A different, and more abstract, kind of sound symbolism is phonaesthesia. A phonaestheme is a (postulated) sequence of sounds which has come to be associated with an underlying meaning common to words which feature it. One of the main examples in English is "sl" in words with sinister/pejorative meanings: sly, slink, slime, slobber, sloven, slum, slither, sleazy etc. Another example is "gl" in words which have to do with light: gleam, glisten, glimmer, glint, glow. Of course, in these cases the phonaestheme itself is wholly arbitrary; yet it seems that there is a certain association in speakers' minds between a specific combination of sounds and a general meaning.

[Edited at 2007-08-11 16:28]


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:07
Member
English to Turkish
onomatopoeia Aug 11, 2007

All languages have many, and in fact, onomatopoeia might be the root of all language. In fact, you started your message with the onomatopoeia of our day: when you clicked the forum link, that is

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sethie
Local time: 07:07
English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for your response all! Aug 11, 2007



Hmmm onomatopoeia- haven't heard that word since 7th grade English class, and, of course!


After I posted, I thought of a word, though not an onomotopeia:


"wow"- the sound to me seems to somehow emulate the feeling of surprise, wonder, etc.


I did a quick look at iconicity and found an interesting one... sign language. http://www.indiana.edu/~hlw/PhonUnits/iconicity.html

The article concludes that "There are many more possibilities when the medium is visual/spatial than vocal/auditory, and the great majority of spoken word forms are probably not iconic." which makes sense to me.... as someone said how the hell do you come up with a sound for google or table which respresents the thing itself, while a picture/symbol is quite easy for almost anything.


More replies welcomed and I will share what I find.


thanks so much,


Seth



I will definatley look into the "Iconicity" that sounds like just the concept I am after.







peace!


Seth





[Edited at 2007-08-11 15:28]

[Edited at 2007-08-11 15:33]


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 10:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
In Hebrew, Aug 12, 2007

the word for bottle is "bakbuk", which sounds like the glugging sound made by liquid being poured...

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jack_speak  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Onomatopoeia Aug 12, 2007

Onomatopoeia is not a language. I think the asker wants to know some such languages.

English - http://www.aleeya.net/word-play/onomatopoeia/onomatopoeia/aleeya

Onomatopoeia seems to be more common / important in Japanese than in English. http://www.geocities.com/thduggie/japan/jslang.htm [/quote]


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Narcis Lozano Drago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:07
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Other references Aug 12, 2007

In Korean and Japanese there are not only onomatopoeias (which in Japanese are called "giseigo") but also mimetic words for expressing some feelings or situations (which in Japanese are called "gitaigo") which are not so common to find in another languages and are usually a nightmare for translators. You can find some interesting references searching these terms in Google. I also recomend you ""An illustrated dictionary of Japanese onomatopoeic expressions" by Gomi Taro.

As for writing systems I recommend you the excellent www.omniglot.com, specially the "Semanto-phonetic writing systems"section

Regards

[Edited at 2007-08-12 09:33]

[Edited at 2007-08-12 11:45]


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
German to English
Butterfly/Schmetterling Aug 13, 2007

I'm not sure what the linguistic term is for the phenomenon whereby a word conveys some essential aspect of the thing through the word's sound. Both English and German have words for these insects whose sound conveys or evokes the insect's "flutteriness" as it flies. Perhaps this comes close to iconicity.
English has a few others that escape me just now - nice question
DB


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femmy
Local time: 22:07
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Sundanese introductory word Aug 20, 2007

In Sundanese, there is a class of words that introduces the verb following it, especially if at the beginning of the action. Each word in this class can only be used for a specific verb, and I think the sound of these introductory words is similar to the "sound" of the actual action (at least to our Sundanese ears). Some examples:

* tret (introductory word) nulis (verb) = write (I think "tret" sounds like a pen writing on paper)
* gek diuk = sit down
* jung nangtung = stand up
* reup sare = sleep (doesn't "reup" sounds like a person closing his eyes?)
* pok ngomong = talk
* brebet lumpat = run

[Edited at 2007-08-20 05:48]


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Lola Garcia Abarca  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
interesting thought Sep 11, 2007

sethie wrote:

Hi all-

I have always had a knack for language and now I am finding myself interested in the thing called "language" itself.


My first question is about languages that reffer to reality.

For the most part, it seems language is totally arbitray- no reason why a table is called "a table." There is no connection between the sound "tay bull" and the object. The written word "table" contains no refference to the a table, other then a memorized association.

For example, in Chinese, the character for "male" is a picture of a field and the symbol for strength- the idea maybe being "men do the hard work in the fields" or something along those lines. Some Chinese characters to this day still have a pictoral or meaning refference that sort of connects them with the thing they are describing.

I am very curious to know about any other languages that do so. I am aware of Hieroglyphics... and would like to read more about other written languages or spoken languages which have some actual connection between the symbol (language) and the thing trying to be represented.

I am especially fascinated by sound... are there any spoken languages where the sound connects to the thing represented by the sound?


peace,

Seth


Some say that the word "eye" / "ojo" (in Spanish) resembles what it represents... As it's a very common word and probably needed early on in the history of language, like "me" "you". In the case of "eye" - maybe some scratchings representing eyes was later incorporated into some type of hieroglyphics... only a thought, though.


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Rosina Peixoto  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 12:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
OJO in Spanish Jun 2, 2008

conveys the idea of the upper part of the face. The Os represent the eyes and the J, the nose.


[Some say that the word "eye" / "ojo" (in Spanish) resembles what it represents... As it's a very common word and probably needed early on in the history of language, like "me" "you". In the case of "eye" - maybe some scratchings representing eyes was later incorporated into some type of hieroglyphics... only a thought, though. [/quote]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:07
French to English
+ ...
Even the "iconic" examples are often less iconic than we think Jun 2, 2008

In terms of the actual spoken language, patterns such as "'gl-' for shiny words" are often about as iconic as it gets, and they're fairly tenuous to begin with. Some researchers have also made an possible link between the shape of an object and the "shape" of the waveform of the corresponding word (the infamous "kiki" / "buba" experiment), but I don't think it's clear that this correspondence is actually used extensively in real languages. (A pair such as "kick" vs "bubble" could be evidence for or against the argument, depending on how much of a coincidence you see the them to be.)

Onomatopoeia are often not close immitations, are often subject to phonological constraints of the language (in English, we probably wouldn't have an onomatopoeia starting with "lg-" even if that resembled the sound in question), and differ widely from language to language.

The writing systems that we often think of as "iconic" often turn out not to be quite so iconic. For example, everyone thinks of hieroglyphs as being pictures that depict the words they represent, but in many cases, Egyptian scribes appear to have chosen symbols because of the *sound* of the word they generally represented just as in other writing systems. It's a bit like when we write "2day" in a text message -- it's not because the symbol "2" somehow depicts part of the meaning of "today". As far as I'm aware (but will admit to "grapevine knowledge" here), Chinese languages also work similarly-- perhaps somebody working with such languages can comment further?

I hope that everybody knows really that examples such as Spanish "ojo" are generally spurious coincidences. In this case, "ojo" derived fairly uninterestingly from Latin "oculis", which declined-- including various 'non-symmetrical' forms-- just like any other boring old noun. (One of its declined forms was "oculos" -- try saying this fast over and over again and see how it ends up sounding...) Same for French "château" with it's supposed "tower" over the 'a' etc...


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