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Bookmark and Share Paper 2971

Touch Ideophones in Nyagbo
James Essegbey
235-243 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper discusses ideophones used to describe different kinds of texture in Nyagbo, a Ghana-Togo Mountain (GTM) language spoken in Ghana. Dingemanse (2009) observes that while most discussions of ideophones focus on phonological, morphological and syntactic characteristics of ideophones, very few discuss their semantics and pragmatics. He writes: "[r]arely do we get systematic information on intension (the conceptual content, or the sensory event evoked by an ideophone) versus the extension (the range of situations it can be applied to), on semantic relations between ideophones, on possible semantic variation, or on metalinguistic intuitions that speakers themselves may have about these words" (Dingemanse 2011:3). This paper seeks to fill that gap by exploring the meaning and use of touch ideophones in Tutrugbu. These words were elicited using the "texture booklet", an elicitation tool designed at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen (Majid et al 2007). It consists of materials which differ in roughness/smoothness, hardness/softness, etc. The two main words used in this domain are kplɔkplɔ (also pronounced gblɔgblɔ) 'smooth' and hwahwala 'rough'. These words contrast with three other ideophones, namely shrɛdɛ 'be slippery', kpeɖekpeɖé 'round' and tsutsuru (also tsutsuɖu) 'round' which were also elicited with the "texture booklet". While the former have more general semantics and a wider application, the latter are multi-categorial with limited application.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: Linguistic Interfaces in African Languages
edited by lanik la Orie and Karen W. Sanders
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00