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the "Sounds like" results

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 9, 1998, 19:03
Matt & John seemed pretty skeptical. But as long-time subscribers to
this list may have noticed, I qua artlanger-cum-linguist have a bee in
my bonnet on this subject.

> Hm. I haven't the maths but I suspect that isn't any better > than chance. I'll ask someone. But probably there isn't > enough data, that's what they generally say...
> "Murud=brown" seems to have struck a chord, but apart from that > just like the Tokana results, one person's yellow is another > person's red...
Oliver Cromm already pointed out some perhaps significant patterns in the data, but the test was not really "fair". There were too many permutations to detect slight phonesthetic influences. Also, it might be that the Tokana & Elet Anta colour words just aren't optimal for receiving intersubjective agreement. Matt:
> Sorry, 100% wrong! :-) > Just goes to show you that sound-symbolism is in the eye > (or ear) of the beholder...
It is easy to disprove this. Here's my ill-recollected version of an experiment proposed by some august American linguist (I forget who). [Brad Coon? Are you listening? Does that ring a bell?] One of the following words means "a small object with a jagged spiny exterior", and the other means "a large amorphous cloudlike shape". kikiriki shmoozh (i.e. [Smu:Z]) -- which is which? The answer is so obvious that one needn't actually conduct the experiment to know that answers would give vastly better than chance results (though in classes when I have conducted it I get 100% agreement). Besides this experiment, look through the OED & see how many words are said to have an "imitative" etymology. Or consider some of the putative global (or very widespread) etymologies some longrangers or megalocomparativists turn up: for many of these onomatopoeia is a better explanation than either cognacy or chance. --And.