[Lingtyp] An ideophone for cough?

Christian Lehmann christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de
Fri Mar 11 18:18:49 UTC 2022

Dear Raffaele,

while I have no ideophone for 'cough' to offer, the following 
considerations may prove helpful:

For some time, German has had a verb form which is morphologically the 
pure stem and whose syntactic distribution is essentially that of 
interjections. /Hust/ 'cough' and /hüstel/ 'cough slightly' are among 
these, just as /gähn/ 'yawn', /grins/ 'grin' and many others. German 
grammarians call them /Inflektiv/ (inflective). (Inflectives may be 
onomatopoetic if the verb happens to be onomatopoetic; but this does not 
concern their essence.) They doubtless gained popularity in translations 
of English cartoons. The German wikipedia, and only this one, has an 
article on them.

Some of the earlier answers to your question appear to concern 
inflectives. Regardless of whether they are onomatopoetic, I do not 
think inflectives should be subsumed under ideophones; but that, of 
course, depends on your definition of ideophone.

Again, several of the forms offered in this thread are clearly not 
inflectives. Then again the question arises whether such words are 
ideophones. An ideophone holistically represents the perceptual 
impression of a situation; and on account of its holistic character, it 
either does not integrate into clause syntax or may at most be added as 
an adjunct. Does, e.g., /ahem/ have the same distribution as the typical 
ideophone, like /zig-zag/ and /helter-skelter/? It might rather be an 

Sorry for these qualms.

Cheers, Christian


Am 11.03.2022 um 10:58 schrieb Raffaele Simone:
> Dear all,
> working on a paper on ideophones and their place in grammar and 
> lexicon I happened to wonder how things are concerning cough.
> Romance languages and other which I am familiar with do not seem to 
> have a standard ideophone for it and even less a stable an accepted 
> written version of it.
> Do you know languages that have an ideophone for cough and even more a 
> way of indicating it in writing?
> Thanks,
> Raffaele
> -- 
> ===============
> Emeritus Professor, Università Roma Tre
> Hon C Lund University
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Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
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99092 Erfurt

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