[Lingtyp] Do expressives have a shared phonosemantic mapping system in East Central Asian languages?

Jess Tauber tetrahedralpt at gmail.com
Fri Sep 11 15:07:26 UTC 2020

Thanks for the heads-up. This book was announced a couple of days ago on
the Facebook Linguistic Iconiticy discussion group. I would think you are
the author of the chapter that discusses Munda languages based on your web
I've had a copy of Bodding's 5-volume Santali dictionary for many years,
and have been trying to work out phonosemantic mappings in the language
using it. This seems to be a relatively under-explored area as most
linguists work instead on expressive pragmatics, syntax, morphology, or
phonology. And it is undeniably the hardest, since nearly completely
dependent on subjective judgements of semantic commonalities between forms
with different roots.

I've been at this attempt for four decades, looking at grammars and
lexicons of around 150 languages. Some languages seem to prefer a
physico-mechanical metaphor for mapping phonosemantics (forces applied to
masses at different angles, so vectors (and perhaps tensors)), but others
see the field of play as social physics (attractions, repulsions, changes
of rank and status, displays and confrontations, etc.)- postures and gaits,
which have a similar vector-based dynamic. The latter appears to dominate
in East Central Asian languages. Santali is more of a mixed bag. Kammu,
within Mon-Khmer, aligns more with the East Central Asian group.

Jess Tauber


On Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 5:21 AM Anvita Abbi <anvitaabbi at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Jess,
> You may consider looking into the latest publication by Routledge. Here is
> the link.
> https://www.routledge.com/Expressive-Morphology-in-the-Languages-of-South-Asia/Williams/p/book/9781138291157
> best,
> Anvita
> Prof. (Dr.) Anvita Abbi
> *B.B. Borkar Chair of Comparative Literature, Goa University*
> *Formerly: Professor and Chair of the Centre for Linguistics*
> *Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India*
> *www.andamanese.net* <http://www.andamanese.net/>
> On Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 6:40 AM Jess Tauber <tetrahedralpt at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> I'm currently examining closely the systems of expressives in a variety
>> of languages from East Central Asia (the old 'Altaic' assemblage, as well
>> as a couple of relatively nearby families. This involves Korean, Nanai
>> (Tungusic), Xalxa and Ordos (Mongolian), Japanese, Nivkh, Santali (Munda),
>> and Kammu (Mon-Khmer). I'm slowly finding common general mappings, even
>> though the phonological systems aren't identical. For example, in Korean
>> (using Martin's dictionary), expressives in initial dental stops appears
>> largely to encode the notion of blunt force used to displace or overwhelm
>> defenders of abstract territories, as if an attacker was attempting to
>> become the top dog in a contest. With palatal stop initials, on the other
>> hand, the set largely codes for dependents, followers, and other voluntary
>> hangers-on, who might be hoping to join in a hierarchy led by some other
>> person.  I've seen such mappings in other languages areas as well, but they
>> are NOT universal. Anyone here know of any prior work along these lines,
>> looking at these systems as specifying particular configurations within
>> social physics?
>> Thanks,
>> Jess Tauber
>> tetrahedralpt at gmail.com
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