Advances in the Cross-Linguistic Study of Ideophones



Ideophones are marked words that depict sensory imagery found in many of the world’s languages. They are noted for their special forms, distinct grammatical behaviour, rich sensory meanings, and interactional uses related to experience and evidentiality. This review surveys recent developments in ideophone research. Work on the semiotics of ideophones helps explain why they are marked and how they realise the depictive potential of speech. A true semantic typology of ideophone systems is coming within reach through a combination of language-internal analyses and language-independent elicitation tools. Documentation of ideophones in a wide variety of genres as well as sequential analysis of ideophone use in natural discourse leads to new insights about their interactional uses and about their relation to other linguistic devices like reported speech and grammatical evidentials. As the study of ideophones is coming of age, it sheds new light on what is possible and probable in human language.