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World-View of Protolanguage Speakers as Inferred from Semantics of Sound Symbolic Words: A Case of Japanese Mimetics

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The Origins of Language

Abstract

The biggest challenge in the study of language evolution is the fact that language does not leave fossil records in the rock. However, it has been argued that some reminants of earlier forms of language has been “fossilized” in modern language. (1990) suggested that syntactic properties of “protolanguage” (a communication system that is a precursor to modern language) can be seen in utterances produced by Broca’s aphasics, infants in the two-word stage, speakers of a Pidgin language, and Genie, who were deprived of language input until the age of 13 due to abusive imprisonment (Curtis 1977). (2002) suggests that interjections such as ouch, wow, and oh is a fossil from a stage in the development of protolangauge in which words did not combine syntactically and the referents of the words were situation-bound and mostly affective. In this article, we will explore another possible fossil of protolanguage, namely sound-symbolic words. More specifi cally, this article investigates the semantic properties of these words, taking sound symbolic words in Japanese as an example. Sound symbolic words have certain restrictions as to what type of events and states they can refer to. It is suggested that these restrictions might tell us the “world view” held by the speakers of protolanguage that heavily relied on sound symbolic words.

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Kita, S. (2008). World-View of Protolanguage Speakers as Inferred from Semantics of Sound Symbolic Words: A Case of Japanese Mimetics. In: Masataka, N. (eds) The Origins of Language. Springer, Tokyo. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-79102-7_3

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