Icons We Live By

Mapping the terminology for ideophones


The goal for this short update is to use the R package lingtypology (click here for the tutorial), in order to create a map that shows which for which languages we use which terminology relating to ideophones.

Now, I know that the data isn’t complete yet. It is an ongoing cataloguing project. You can find the more recent versions of this map on my Github account.

Load packages


Read in the data

The data below is divided into three columns:

  • language: the language name found in the Glottolog database1.
  • terminology: the terminology used to refer to ideophones in descriptions of the phenomenon across different languages.
  • popup: What I want to appear in the frames when you click on a given language. In this case that would be a reference to some research, or the names used for the phenomenon in the language itself.
df <- read_tsv("https://raw.githubusercontent.com/simazhi/ideophones/master/terminology_map.csv")
df %>%
  kable("html") %>%
  kable_styling(bootstrap_options = c("striped", "hover"))
language terminology popup
Semai expressive Diffloth (1976); (Tufvesson 2011)
Bahnar expressive Diffloth (1994)
Kedah Malay expressive Collins (1979)
Lao expressive Crisfield (1983); Waylang (1996)
Indonesian expressive Carr (1966)
Somali ideophone Dhoorre & Tosco (1998)
Yoruba ideophone Rowlands (1970)
Kisi ideophone Childs (1988)
Zulu ideophone Doke 1935, Msimang & Poulos 2001)
Gbaya-Bossangoa ideophone Samarin (1965); Noss (2001); Roulon-Doko 2001)
Hausa ideophone Newman (1968)
Siwu ideophone Dingemanse (2011)
Korean ideophone You (1991); Lee (1992) <br> 의성어 [uiseong-eo], 의태 [uitae], 의정어 [uijeong-eo]
Asheninka Perene ideophone Mihas (2012)
Japanese mimetic Kita (1993; 1997); Lu (2006); Akita (2009); Kita (1997); Mester & Itō (1989), Rodrigues (1604) <br> オノマトペ・擬音語・擬態語・擬情語 [onomatope, giongo, gitaigo, gijōgo] “onomatopeia, phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
French expressive Grammont (1901)
Northern Pastaza Quichua ideophone Nuckolls (1992,1996,2004, 2017)
Ewe Lautbilder Westermann (1905: 1907), Ameka (2001)
Shona ideophone Fortune (1962), Klassen (1999)
Southern Sotho ideophone Kunene (1965)
Kota (India) onomatopoetics Emeneau (1969)
Vietnamese impressif Durand (1961)
Khasi phonaesthetic words Henderson (1965)
Pacoh ideophone Watson (1966)
Yir-Yoront ideophone Alpher (1994), 2001)
Nyanja ideophone Kulemeka (1994) (lang: Chichewa),1996, 1997)
Wolaytta ideophone Amha (2001)
Tswana ideophone Creissels (2001)
Emai-Iuleha-Ora ideophone Egbokhare (2001), Schaefer (2001)
Mundang ideophone Elders (2001)
Finnish expressive Jarva (2001), Mikone (2001)
Didinga ideophone de Jong (2001)
Luba-Katanga ideophone Kabuta (2001)
Baka (Cameroon) ideophone Kilian-Hatz (2001)
Kxoe ideophone Kilian-Hatz (2001)
Kambera ideophone Klamer (1998, 2000)
Warrwa ideophone McGregor (2001)
Gooniyandi ideophone McGregor (2001)
Kwini ideophone McGregor (2001)
Estonian ideophone Mikone (2001)
Iloko onomatopoetics Rubino (2001)
Jaminjung ideophone Schultze-Berndt (2001)
Tetela ideophone Tassa (2001)
Kamu ideophone Svantesson (1983)
Mandarin Chinese ideophone Mok (2001); Zhao (2008); Zhang (1999); Yao (2004); Lu (2006); Li (2007); Meng (2012); Van Hoey (2015; 2017) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Yue Chinese ideophone Mok (2001); Bodomo (2006); de Sousa (2008) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Central Dagaare ideophone Bodomo (2006)
Hakka Chinese ideophone Mok (2001); Bodomo (2006); de Sousa (2008); Wu (2015) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Xiang Chinese ideophone Wu (2015) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Gan Chinese ideophone Wu (2015) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Wu Chinese ideophone Wu (2015) <br> 象聲詞 [xiangshengci] “onomatope” <br> 擬聲詞·擬態詞·擬請詞 [nishengci, nitaici, niqingci] “phonomime, phenomime, psychomime”
Upper Necaxa Totonac ideophone Beck (2008)
English onomatopoeia and phonaesthemes Sapir (1929); Bolinger (1950); Bloomfield (1953); Marchand (1983); Magnus (2001), Bolinger (1950)

Plot the terminology map

Next we plot the map, which can then be explored. Click on a dot and you should see the same data we put in the table above.

map.feature(languages = df$language,
            features = df$terminology,
            popup = df$popup,
            color= c("yellowgreen", "navy"),
            #shape = TRUE
            label = df$language

tl; dr

So with a simple script and some data we can use the lingtypology package to quickly map language-related data. We can see how ideophone is used more for African languages, expressive for Southeast Asian ones, and mimetic for Japanese. Of these ideophone is recently becoming the global cover term — although what that precisely means, often still has to be explained at the language-particular level. Cool!


Dingemanse, Mark. 2011. The meaning and use of ideophones in Siwu. Nijmegen: Radboud University Nijmegen dissertation.

Kwon, Nahyun. 2015. The natural motivation of sound symbolism. Brisbane: University of Queensland PhD dissertation.

Moroz G (2017). lingtypology: easy mapping for Linguistic Typology. <URL: https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lingtypology>.

Voeltz, Erhard Friedrich Karl & Christa Kilian-Hatz (eds.). 2001. Ideophones. (Typological Studies in Language v. 44). Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

  1. Although maybe it is an adapted form, see the documentation for the R package ‘lingtypology’.


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