Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2210-4372
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4380
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There is a growing research literature on phonetic symbolism in poetry, sometimes with incongruent results. Through a theoretical structural analysis we show that, (a) individual speech sounds have (sometimes conflicting) potentials to suggest elementary percepts, such as abruptness, hardness, smoothness; and (b) from these elementary percepts some general psychological atmosphere may be abstracted that may be individuated in specific emotions as ‘love,’ ‘joy,’ or ‘anger,’ by semantic feature-addition. This proposal can reconcile incongruous research results. Sound-symbolic lexical entries are governed by similar principles, but fossilized. Large-scale statistical investigation may reveal significant sound-symbolic effects only when the same phonemes repeat throughout the poem. They may, however, miss conspicuous local sound effects, revealed only by local analysis. Some sceptical conclusions in the research literature may be due to this phenomenon. The proposed method may account not only for statistical correlations, but also for the perception of a pervasive emotional atmosphere in a poem.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): emotion; iconicity; poetry; sound symbolism
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