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Ideophones are words used by speakers to evoke a vivid impression of certain sensation or sensory perceptions, e.g. smell, color, shape, sound, action, or movement. Ideophones are attested in all languages of the world, however, languages differ in the extent to which they make use of them. Because of this, some linguists do not think it is useful to talk about a universal 'class' of ideophones, and maintain that the concept makes sense only within the context of an individual language. In this narrow sense, the validity of the class of ideophones is rarely disputed.

The word class of ideophones is often called phonosemantic to indicate that it is not a grammatical word class in the traditional sense of the word (like 'verb' or 'noun'), but rather a grouping based on form and meaning.

In the discipline of linguistics, ideophones have long been overlooked or treated as mysterious words . Voeltz and Kilian-Hatz (2001:2) suggest this might be because ideophones often transcend traditional categorizational boundaries in languages, thus providing a problem to the generally orderly divided grammatical classes.


An oft-cited definition of the notion of ideophone is the one by Doke 1935:118:
‘A vivid representation of an idea in sound. A word, often onomatopoeic, which describes a predicate, qualificative or adverb in respect to manner, colour, sound, smell, action, state or intensity.’

Ideophones evoke sensory events. Reduplication figures quite...
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