The present study begins with an introduction to “sound symbolism” from a cognitive linguistic perspective. Such frameworks provide that while the relationship between sound and meaning within the lexicon is in general arbitrary, languages may also feature specific, statistically significant relationships between particular sounds and particular semantic domains, whether language specific or motivated by more general cognitive tendencies. An example from modern Mandarin leads to a broader consideration of this phenomenon within Old Chinese (OC), with particular reference to the reduplicative vocabulary, or dieyin ci 疊音詞, of the Book of Odes corpus. The author presents a series of persistent associations between sound and meaning in this subset of the OC lexicon, with statistical evidence adduced in support of their cognitive reality for OC speakers. Finally, this article offers a tentative exploration of the role of such “expressive” or “ideophonic” vocabulary in producing particular poetic effects relating to point of view and to conceptual metaphor.

You do not currently have access to this content.