15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Sound Symbolism in Kammu Expressives

Jan-Olof Svantesson, Damrong Tayanin

Lund University, Sweden

Expressives, words that express how a speaker perceives something with the senses, form a distinct word class in many Southeast Asian languages, including Kammu, a Mon-Khmer language spoken in northern Laos. The Kammu expressives have an unusually rich and regular morphology, which involves a high degree of iconicity. There is a consistent correlation between the size of the entities involved and the vowel quality of the expressive, so that the ten vowel qualities of Kammu can be ordered on a scale from 'large' to 'small'. The largest vowels are those for which both F1 and F2 are low, the smallest ones are those with high F1 and F2. Thus a kind of average spectral frequency determines the size denoted by a vowel, largely consistent with Ohala's frequency code.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Svantesson, Jan-Olof / Tayanin, Damrong (2003): "Sound symbolism in Kammu expressives", In ICPhS-15, 2689-2692.