Linguistics Seminar

February 11, 12:00pm - 1:15pm
Mānoa Campus, St. John Auditorium, Room 011 Add to Calendar

Gestalt Symbolism and Submorphemes in Austronesian Languages: What Role for Morphological Theory? By: Robert Blust, UHM-Linguistics Department

Sound symbolism is usually defined as a recurrent association of sound and meaning below the level of the morpheme. In practice, sound-symbolic elements are also commonly thought to be smaller than a syllable. However, in addition to these more familiar patterns, many Austronesian languages have sound-symbolic elements that constitute an entire CVC syllable. These were first recognized more than a century ago by the pioneering Swiss Indonesianist Renward Brandstetter (1860-1942), who called them Wurzeln (‘roots’), more than 230 of which have now been identified and classified into various types. Less common and not previously recognized, but nonetheless well-attested, are abstract configurations of phonemes and syllables that are recurrently associated with given meanings without (in most cases) being cognate. These are entire words that form a typological class by virtue of their canonical shape, as defined by a combination of syllabic form and phonemic content. Adopting a well-known term from psychology, I have called this type of theoretially incorrigible sound-meaning association ‘Gestalt symbolism’.

Event Sponsor
Linguistics Department, Mānoa Campus

More Information
Kavon Hooshiar, (808) 956-8602,,

Share by email