expressives and language type

Jess Tauber Zylogy at AOL.COM
Thu Mar 29 22:50:31 UTC 2001


I have a question concerning the relationship between language type and the
type of expressive/ideophone base any language might possess.  Since most of
the readership will have no prior opinion on this all I would ask for here is
whether it sounds too weird to be acceptible per current typological
consenses.

As many of you are aware, my research has primarily centered around
phonosemantics. I've sifted through grammars and dictionaries of hundreds of
languages, catalogueing form and usage, as well as working out the mapping of
form/meaning in each language, where this was practicable. I've also looked
for any patterns linking to various typological parameters, and found a few.

One of the results of this work has been the realization that no
one-size-fits-all statement about the mapping of form to meaning was
possible, and yet only a handful of patterns was found, rather than a large
number. And these patterns seem to associate with both morphosyntactic and
phonological typological developments.

So here's the question- is it possible that, given the assumption that when
coined ideophones and expressives are not part of the lexicon per se at their
creation (only becoming part when some degree of lexicalization takes place,
itself necessitating type change), that it is the current prevailing patterns
of morphosyntactic and phonological type (including prosody) which provide
the template? This would be relatively uncontroversial for at least the
segmental phonology, but what of the other patterns?

Haiman has noted (in work on Khmer) differences between right- and left-
headed (or vice versa for branching - picks yer poison) languages in terms of
preferences for rhyming or alliteration. My work indicates that many
expressive/ideophonic roots have a "reading direction"- there is a priority
ranking to the root (interpreted in the grammar as temporal, spatial, etc.),
and this direction is a variable and may associate with constituent order
type, for this class of forms.

So does this sound particularly off the wall??

Jess Tauber
zylogy at aol.com

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