We are happy to announce a talk by Aleksandra Ćwiek (ZAS Berlin) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.

Title: Sorting the Mischmasch of German Ideophones

Date: November 25

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Most of the articles or lectures on ideophones begin with quoting Mark Dingemanse’s work. This one will be no different. An ideophone is “a member of an open lexical class of marked words that depict sensory imagery” (Dingemanse, 2019, 16). Words like boing or swish evoke a sense of sound and movement, respectively. However, Indo-European languages have been called “ideophonically impoverished” (Diffloth, 1972, 440; Nuckolls, 2004). In this project, I tackle this problem by inspecting the breadth of ideophones in German. I will present a data set of German ideophones that my colleagues and I collected from children’s books. Overall, we collected a total of 1,020-word forms and 650 lemmas, i.e., unified word forms. In this talk, I will present the data and discuss some further ideas to refine it. In addition, I will show two experiments conducted using the data. Experiment 1 was conducted to verify (1) the classification of German ideophones along the hierarchy proposed by Dingemanse (2012) and McLean (2020), and (2) the multisensory nature of German ideophones (Nuckolls, 2019). We find some evidence in support of the hierarchy. We also report that there exist multisensory ideophones in German. Experiment 2 tested the bootstrapping hypothesis for the use of ideophones (Imai & Kita, 2014). Our results reveal that books for younger children contain more ideophones than books for older children, suggesting the bootstrapping effect of ideophones for language acquisition. This is the first to date report on this effect in written data. All in all, the core message of this talk is the importance of studying these seemingly irrelevant portions of our lexicon.