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Entropy 2010, 12(4), 844-858; doi:10.3390/e12040844

Sound Symbolism in Basic Vocabulary

1
Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
2
Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
3
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024–1563, USA
4
Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 December 2009 / Revised: 2 April 2010 / Accepted: 7 April 2010 / Published: 9 April 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Complexity of Human Language and Cognition)
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Abstract

The relationship between meanings of words and their sound shapes is to a large extent arbitrary, but it is well known that languages exhibit sound symbolism effects violating arbitrariness. Evidence for sound symbolism is typically anecdotal, however. Here we present a systematic approach. Using a selection of basic vocabulary in nearly one half of the world’s languages we find commonalities among sound shapes for words referring to same concepts. These are interpreted as due to sound symbolism. Studying the effects of sound symbolism cross-linguistically is of key importance for the understanding of language evolution. View Full-Text
Keywords: linguistics; language evolution; sound symbolism; Automated Similarity Judgment Program linguistics; language evolution; sound symbolism; Automated Similarity Judgment Program
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Wichmann, S.; Holman, E.W.; Brown, C.H. Sound Symbolism in Basic Vocabulary. Entropy 2010, 12, 844-858.

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