LINGUIST List 31.3376

Tue Nov 03 2020

Books: Ideophones and the Evolution of Language: Haiman

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 30-Oct-2020
From: Rachel Tonkin <>
Subject: Ideophones and the Evolution of Language: Haiman
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Title: Ideophones and the Evolution of Language
Published: 2020
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Book URL:

Author: John Haiman
Paperback: ISBN: 9781107695030 Pages: Price: U.S. $ 35.99
Paperback: ISBN: 9781107695030 Pages: Price: U.K. £ 26.99
Paperback: ISBN: 9781107695030 Pages: Price: Europe EURO 31.50

Ideophones have been recognized in modern linguistics at least since 1935, but they still lie far outside the concerns of mainstream (Western) linguistic debate, in part because they are most richly attested in relatively unstudied (often unwritten) languages. The evolution of language, on the other hand, has recently become a fashionable topic, but all speculations so far have been almost totally data-free. Without disputing the tenet that there are no primitive languages, this book argues that ideophones may be an atavistic throwback to an earlier stage of communication, where sounds and gestures were paired in what can justifiably be called a 'prelinguistic' fashion. The structure of ideophones may also provide answers to deeper questions, among them how communicative gestures may themselves have emerged from practical actions. Moreover, their current distribution and behaviour provide hints as to how they may have become conventional words in languages with conventional rules.

1. The gestural origin theory of language genesis; 2. What are ideophones?; 3. Lexical origins of ideophones; 4. Suiting the word to the action: oral charades; 5. Ideophones as a possible solution to the ritualization problem; 6. Taming ideophones: from showing to telling; 7. Repetition in the genesis of signs, art, and ideophones.

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Written In: English (eng)

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Page Updated: 03-Nov-2020