“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The OOO Lexicon of Synaesthetic Onomatopoeia

Okay, here's part of my talk on OOO for tomorrow. I'm arguing that real objects enter into language all the time, most conspicuously in the form of onomatopoeia. We all know guns go bang in English and pan in French, but in neither do they go squish. Something real is translated.

Maybe it's simply that the acid hasn't worn off yet but I'm convinced that onomatopoeia can cover a lot more than mere sound. Why not? If language can translate objects, then sound can translate smell etc.

So I'll start off this list, which I hope we will all expand (to make this post into a monstrous hybrid far bigger than any other post on this blog). I'll start with what I'm calling visual onomatopoeia:


Of course this also leads to fascinating interstitial onomatopoeia. Here are some between seeing and hearing:


Come on readers, it's fun!


Bill Benzon said...

Scan down this page


for "sound symbolism." Lawler's work is evidence about what meanings do get directly into language.

Timothy Morton said...

Thanks Bill!