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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter treats sound symbolism, the non-arbitrary mapping between sound and meaning. Most of the mapping in human language is entirely arbitrary: there is no reason why a ‘grown human female’ should be woman in English, femme in French, and wanalanɔ in Kisi (spoken in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia). In all languages to varying degrees, however, the associations are not entirely arbitrary: established and predictable associations will obtain over significant portions of the lexicon in units smaller than the morpheme or word, the traditional units of meaning. This chapter presents an overview of such phenomena and the range of variation within the general category of sound symbolism, with examples from English and other languages of the world.

Keywords: sound symbolism, sound–meaning associations, arbitrariness, sub-morphemic units, world languages

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