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Journal Articles Cognitive Linguistics Year : 2022

Sound symbolism in Chinese children’s literature

Xiaoxi Wang


Iconicity is a fundamental property of spoken and signed languages. However, quantitative analysis of sound-meaning association in Chinese has not been extensively developed, and little is known about the impact of sound symbolism in children’s literature. As sound symbolism is supposed to be a universal cognitive phenomenon, this research seeks to investigate whether iconic structures of Mandarin are embodied in native Chinese speakers’ language experience. The paper describes a case study of Chinese storybooks with the goal of testing whether phonosemantic association is prominent between name sounds and character features. A quantitative method was used to investigate the distribution of different phonological units in character denomination depending on their physical and emotional traits. The results show that phonemes and syllable combination patterns are closely related to perceivable character features. By comparing schematic mapping in Chinese with other languages, the study illuminates a cross-linguistic tendency in addition to a Chinese-specific iconic relation between sound and meaning.
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hal-03928341 , version 1 (07-01-2023)



Xiaoxi Wang. Sound symbolism in Chinese children’s literature. Cognitive Linguistics, 2022, 33 (1), pp.95-120. ⟨10.1515/cog-2021-0019⟩. ⟨hal-03928341⟩
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