Onomatopoeia and Cat Vocalisations

  •  Aliaa Aloufi    


Onomatopoeia—the imitation of natural sounds—is a common phenomenon in human language, though imitations of the same sounds might appear different cross-linguistically. It is true that onomatopoeia is not like ordinary language, but how does it differ from natural vocalisation? While the distinction between onomatopoeia and ordinary language has received ample treatment, its difference from natural sounds have so far received less attention from linguistics. This study aims to investigate the phonetic differences between onomatopoeic cat sounds in ten languages and natural cat vocalisations. The findings show some segmental and phonotactical distinctions due to the direct representation of these words regarding their meanings, which clearly indicates that this phenomenon in world languages is not arbitrary and offers strong evidence of iconicity. While arbitrariness is the norm in human language and has an essential impact on language development, there are clearly some nonarbitrary aspects of human language, and onomatopoeia is notable among them.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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