On the ordering of elements in ideophonic echo-words versus prosaic dvandva compounds, with special reference to Korean and Japanese

  • Nahyun KwonEmail author
  • Keiko Masuda


Building on Childs’s (Pragmat Soc 5(3):341–354, 2014) proposal that skewed phonotactic distributions provide a legitimate resource for expressiveness in ideophones, often described as iconic words, this study examines whether there are differences in element ordering between ideophonic echo-words and prosaic dvandva compounds, with special reference to Korean and Japanese. Measured against Cooper and Ross’s (in: Papers from the parasession on functionalism, Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago, pp 63–111, 1975) claimed-to-be-universal phonological constraints for the ordering of conjoined elements pertaining to element-initial consonants and vowels, the study reveals that both Korean and Japanese data comply with the constraints in general. However, in Korean, echo-words are significantly different from dvandva compounds in their compliance with the consonant constraint while they are not so with the vowel constraint. In reverse, echo-words and dvandva compounds in Japanese show a significant difference in their compliance with the vowel constraint but not with the consonant constraint. The findings provide quantitative evidence for the cross-linguistic applicability of the proposed phonological principles for element ordering and the language-specific phonotactic deviance of ideophones vis-à-vis the matrix language for the preferred ordering patterns.


Ideophone Compound Korean Japanese Phonotactics Quantitative analysis 


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We thank members of the Phonetics Research Group (Akira Utsugi and Han Wang) and of the Onomatope Study Group (Marino Motoyama, Ming Chen, Mengying Jin, Yajing Feng) at Nagoya University for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper. N.K. acknowledges support from a postdoctoral fellowship for overseas researchers from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellows (#JP16F16729). K.M. gratefully acknowledges support from the Chuo University Leave Program for Special Research Projects.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of HumanitiesJapan Society for the Promotion of Science/Nagoya UniversityNagoya-shiJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of CommerceChuo UniversityHachioji-shiJapan

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