Poll


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This is a poll about attitudes toward sound symbolism or linguistic iconicity. If you reply, your identity will be kept anonymous


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Only if You Wish to:

Your profession? (a linguist? a chicken farmer? a Catholic priest?)

Your sex?

Your native language?

Have you studied sound symbolism (phonosemantics)?

Feel free to leave me your e-mail address, if you'd like: (I don't post them)

And your name, if you'd like: (I don't post them either)


First, I'm curious if anybody is willing to offer an off-the-cuff opinion as to what percentage of modern linguists believe in the complete arbitrariness of the sign?


Mark all that apply:

You will undoubtedly want to comment and qualify. Please just try to mark these as best you can. Some of the issues that come up in the earlier questions may be addressed in the later ones. There will also be an opportunity at the end to comment.

In some cases your replies to later questions can be predicted from your replies to earlier questions. Please check all that apply anyway.

Ready to practice your quantifiers?

A. PERVASIVENESS OF PHONOSEMANTICS ACROSS LANGUAGES

A1. All word meanings in all languages are completely arbitrary.

A2. All word meanings in some languages are completely arbitrary.

A3. All word meanings in no languages are completely arbitrary.


A4. All word meanings in all languages can be completely predicted by their form.

A5. All word meanings in some languages can be completely predicted by their form.

A6. All word meanings in no languages can be completely predicted by their form.


A7. All word meanings in all languages can be partially but not completely predicted by their form.

A8. All word meanings in some languages can be partially but not completely predicted by their form.

A9. All word meanings in no languages can be partially but not completely predicted by their form.


A10. Some (but not all) word meanings in all languages are completely arbitrary.

A11. Some (but not all) word meanings in some languages are completely arbitrary.

A12. Some (but not all) word meanings in no languages are completely arbitrary.


A13. Some (but not all) word meanings in all languages can be completely predicted by their form.

A14. Some (but not all) word meanings in some languages can be completely predicted by their form.


A15. Some (but not all) word meanings in all languages can be partially but not completely predicted by their form.

A16. Some (but not all) word meanings in some languages can be partially but not completely predicted by their form. (Whew!)


A17. In some languages no word meanings are completely arbitrary.

A18. In some languages no word meanings can be completely predicted by their form.

A19. In some languages no word meanings can be partially predicted by their form.




A20. In all languages, very few word meanings are affected by their form

A21. In all languages, a considerable number of word meanings, but less than 50% are affected by their form

A22. In all languages, more than 50% of word meanings are affected by their form

A23. In all languages, all but a very few word meanings are affected by their form

A24. In all languages, all word meanings are affected by their form


A25. In most languages, very few word meanings are affected by their form

A26. In most languages, a considerable number of word meanings, but less than 50% are affected by their form

A27. In most languages, more than 50% of word meanings are affected by their form

A28. In most languages, all but a very few word meanings are affected by their form

A29. In most languages, all word meanings are affected by their form


A30. In a few languages, very few word meanings are affected by their form

A31. In a few languages, a considerable number of word meanings, but less than 50% are affected by their form

A32. In a few languages, more than 50% of word meanings are affected by their form

A33. In a few languages, all but a very few word meanings are affected by their form

A34. In a few languages, all word meanings are affected by their form

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B. REASON FOR PHONOSEMANTIC EFFECTS

B1. Sound affects meaning in onomatopoeic words, in words which refer to sounds themselves or which refer to things which make sounds. The phonetics of these words resembles the sound of the referent.

B2. Early languages were more iconic. As language evolves, it becomes increasingly abstracted from its form. Therefore those languages which have changed less over time are more iconic.

B3. There is a natural process in human psychology which conspires to associate with any form a coherent meaning. Therefore there is a tendency (for example in a language learner) to try to ascribe a single coherent meaning to a word and a morpheme with the result that words and morphemes are said to have 'meanings'. This process (I'll call it Semantic Association) also applies on the lower level of the sub-morpheme (partial syllables -- to onsets and rhymes, say, as described by e.g. Bolinger, Rhodes, Lawler, McCune).

B3.1 Submorphemes do have a meaning

B3.2 Submorphemes can have a meaning

B4. Semantic Association applies also on the level as low as the phoneme.

B4.1 Phonemes do have a meaning

B4.2 Phonemes can have a meaning

B5. Semantic Association applies as low as the phonetic feature (i.e. labials or stops have some common element of meaning).

B5.1 Phonetic features do have a meaning

B5.2 Phonetic feature can have a meaning

B6. The level on which Phonosemantic Association applies is language-dependent.

B7. The level on which Phonosemantic Association applies is dependent on the word.

B8. Phonosemantic effects are truly iconic. I am thinking now of something like what Plato describes in the Cratylus, where things in the world to which words refer have an 'essence' and the sound meanings somehow synesthetically reflect that essence. It need not be that this synesthetic association be 'right' or 'wrong' like Plato thought. It can be like Nodier thought in his later years that there's an interpretive element to this synesthetic correspondence... in other words, different people or cultures and 'feel' this essence differently and hence express it differently.

*******

C. GRAMMAR OF PHONOSEMANTICS

C1. Phonosemantics is actually in the grammar (langue) or implicit in the meaning of the word regardless of how it is used.

C2. Phonosemantics is more prevalent in certain forms of speech (such as poetry) than in others.

C3. Both C1 and C2 hold.

C4. The extent to which C1 and C2 hold is language-dependent.

C5. The extent to which C1 and C2 hold is dependent on the word.

C6. The semantics of a word is analyzable into discrete identifiable components, such as a denotative or referential vs. a connotative -- some of these are arbirarily associated with a phonetic/phonological form and some are not.

C7. The semantics of a word cannot be cleanly enough analyzed into discrete components that it makes sense to talk of some components being arbitrary and others not.

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D. NATURALISM AND CONVENTIONALISM

D1. There is some correlation between the phonological form of words and their semantics, but that correlation is 'conventional'. That is, Sapir, for example, believed there to be a correlation between sound and meaning, but he believed that that was only due to a tendency to give words with similar sounds similar meanings. So if the basic word for 'house' in some language starts with /h/, then other words for dwellings are likely to start with /h/ as well, but whether or not 'house' starts with /h/ is arbitrary.

D2. The correlation between the form of a word and its semantics is 'natural' or perhaps synesthetic. So there is some aspect of the meaning of /m/ or /l/ which will be universal (cross-linguistically).

D3. The 'natural' vs. 'conventional' distinction is language-dependent. In some languages phonosemantics is natural, in others conventional.

D4. The 'natural' vs. 'conventional' distinction is dependent on the word. For some words phonosemantics is natural, in others conventional.

D5. The correlation between the form of a word and its semantics is partially 'natural' and partially 'conventional'.

D5.1 This is true of all words.

D5.2 This is true of some words.

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E. FURTHER COMMENTS



REPLIES TO OLDER QUERIES
(I'm still gathering initial data for this poll.)



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