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The Sound of an Utterance and Its Meaning - Essay Example

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The Sound of an Utterance and its Meaning 1. Introduction Linguistic aesthetics, or sound symbolism, is the term that represents relationship between sound and its meaning, and how humans respond to those meanings psychologically. The role of sound symbolism in language has strengthened its roots with research and scientific findings from scientists like Vilayanur S…
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The Sound of an Utterance and Its Meaning
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Download file to see previous pages The theory of phonosemantics states that phonemes and meanings are inter-related, or that “phonemes are signs in some sense” (Gudwin & Queiroz 2007:177), which is a concept known as sound symbolism. Let’s first understand how mind interprets meaning of a word. Sign is something that refers to a property of an object, and when interpreted, leaves an effect on the interpreter’s mind. This effect is called meaning. If we talk about human language, words and phonemes (/st-/, /gl-/, /-ump/, /-at/) are the signs that leave an effect on humans’ brains, linking a specific meaning to the word. The study of this link between phonemes and meanings is called phonosemantics. It states that our minds process sounds quite unconsciously, like the invoking of emotions on the sound of music without the interpreter even understanding it. The hypothesis that the theory of phonosemantics holds is that, the relationship between phonemes and meanings must be arbitrary since every language has its own words for the same object or its properties. This arbitrariness is to be understood only in the sense that words acquire meanings randomly, and such words form connections with other similar-sounding or similar-meaning words with the passage of time. Once a word has acquired a meaning, both will stay interconnected forever for a specific language. 3. What is Sound Symbolism? Chan (1996:1) states that, “Sound symbolism is the study of the direct relationship between the sound of an utterance and its meaning. It is a special nature of human language, that the utterance of sound can be linked with some meaning. The sound of a child’s cry refers to his wanting attention. A loud scream refers to somebody who is in danger. Clearing the throat refers to one’s attempt to start communication. The name called to grab a person’s attention matches the acoustic restrictions of the environment in which it is being called, like we call a name unintentionally loudly if there is noise in surroundings. Sound symbolism is pervasive to human language, and plays a very important role in linguistics, “especially at the affective level” (Chan 1996:2). It explains a symbolic or metaphoric link between sounds and meanings because when we hear a sound, we interpret it and associate it with images and concepts, and respond to them emotionally. Phonosemantics goes one step further in claiming that even distinct sounds (like scream) have meanings, which are vague and metaphoric in nature. Sound symbolism involves two types of words: phonaesthetic words, and imitative words. Imitative words will be defined later. 3.1. Phonaesthetic words Phonaesthesia is the concept, originally presented by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (Fisher 2011:85), that describes the link between phonaesthemes or phonaesthetic words and specific meanings (Trask 2000:252). Trask gives the example of “slime, slope, slush, sludge, slip slide, slosh, slurry and slug.” All of these words start with /sl-/ and give off an idea of wet and slippery. These are phonaesthemes because they have the element of wetness in them, like when we hear these words, a kind of watery feeling comes into our minds. Hence, phonaesthetic words usually have the same combination of alphabets or consonant clusters at the beginning or ending of the words. Smith (2002:3) has given many good examples in his paper, like “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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