Ideophones have been receiving renewed interest in the last three decades (see e.g. Voeltz & Kilian-Hatz 2001; the Iconicity in Language and Linguistics series). However, linguistic studies have been synchronic in nature for the most part (Dingemanse 2018). We address this diachronic research gap by constructing a database for literary Chinese ideophones (following Mok 2001; Van Hoey 2018) that explores the variables such as: (1) the phonology across different stages of Chinese; (2) the morphology of ideophones (different types of partial and full reduplication); (3) sensory domain mappings based on a cross-linguistic implicational hierarchy (Dingemanse 2012); (4) Chinese characters and their radical support (Van Hoey 2018).
The database (consultable at https://osf.io/kpwgf/ ) is conceived as a resource for future analyses. As a case study, we investigate the two different modalities of phonological form and written form, an analysis licensed by the Chinese model of meaning//phonology / writing (xíng-yīn-yì 形-音-義 ‘shape – sound – meaning’, cf. Baxter & Sagart 1998, as opposed to the mere meaning-form pair of most Construction Grammar approaches). We show how and to what extent the meanings of Chinese ideophones are motivated by the phonological form, or the written form, or both at the same time for partially reduplicated items. The preliminary results indicate that 51% of these items are redundantly marked (written and phonology), 39% only for phonology, 5% only for the written form, and 4% did not have any marking along these parameters. These tendencies suggest that both written form and phonological form are important, but that the latter contributes more to the markedness of “the Chinese ideophone”.