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Onomatopoeic Words in Bilingual Dictionaries (with Focus on English-Estonian and Estonian-English) Enn Veldi Introduction This article addresses the problem of onomatopoeic equivalents in bilingual dictionaries. Relatively little has been written on the lexicographic treatment of onomatopoeic words, but see Samarin 1967, Stolt 1972, Hausenberg 1981, Herlofsky 1984 and Guiraud 1986, 92-127. Onomatopoeic words present difficulties in lexicography because they are, as a rule, polysemous, yet their range of application is narrow (Hausenberg 1981, 34-35). They belong to the phonosemantic subsystem of language, which in comparison with ordinary language, has a different set of values in phonology, morphology, and syntax (see Dogana 1983; Voronin 1982; Wescott 1980). Therefore, the treatment of onomatopoeic words requires specialized knowledge about their nature and behavior. A special requirement is that an entry for an onomatopoeic word should make explicitly clear what kinds of objects or living beings produce the sounds that the sound-symbolic word is meant to represent. Unfortunately, many lexicographers underestimate the work that is needed to treat onomatopoeic words properly. This may be partly explained by the supposition that "English and Indo-European languages generally are not good examples of the use of sound symbolism" (Crystal 1987, 174). Lack of reliable monolingual descriptions, furthermore, makes the lexicographer's work even more complicated. In addition, many dictionaries fail to provide adequate context to illustrate the usage of onomatopoeic words. English-Estonian and Estonian-English dictionaries are cited here for illustration. Estonian (a Finno-Ugric language) is extremely rich in onomatopoeic formations. By richness I mean that the Ian- Onomatopoeic Words in Bilingual Dictionaries___________75 guage has a well-developed system of onomatopoeic patterns with numerous words that follow these patterns. According to the estimates of Rätsep (1983, 544) 20 percent of Estonian bases are of onomatopoeic or descriptive (sound-symbolic) origin. For instance, to denote a variety of hissing and rustling sounds Estonian has the following ablaut variations of the pattern voiceless fricative + vowel + voiceless fricative sahisema - sihisema - sohisema - suhisema - sähisema. It can be expected that the presentation of Estonian onomatopoeic words may cause problems in compiling bilingual dictionaries. The paper begins with a brief discussion of the verbalization of sound. Section 2 deals with the problems of the lexicographic treatment of echoic words in more general terms, and Section 3 focuses on two bilingual Estonian-English dictionaries. 1. Verbalization of sound Sound effects are verbalized by means of the phonemes of a language according to how the speakers hear the effects. Examples of onomatopoeic words are 'beep', 'boom', and 'creak' in English, or piippiip 'beep-beep', pömm [the sound of banging a door], and kriiks 'creak' in Estonian. Advances in technology in the 19th and 20thcenturies have brought many new sounds to our ears, sounds that await imitation, e.g., the roar of an engine 'vroom' in English. Also, the invention of sound recording as well as global communications has greatly increased the chances of monitoring distant sounds. Nowadays even written "verbalized" noise travels quickly across language barriers in the form of comic books. In this way, for example, the English word 'bang' has made its way into Estonian as bang. Onomatopoeic words are phonetically motivated in that meaning derives from the acoustic (and sometimes also the articulatory) properties of their extralinguistic referents. However, it is clear that an onomatopoeic word, which is part of the linguistic system, can be only a rough approximation of the acoustic structure of its extralinguistic referent (Ullmann 1957, 88). This is so because the "building blocks" of such words consist of the phonemes of a language. The variety of extralinguistic sounds, however, can be infinite in comparison with the very limited number of speech sounds. Therefore, the correlation between the extralinguistic sound and the onomatopoeic word is that of an object and its model (Ovcharenko 1984). The similarity of sound repertoires all over the world gives rise to a remarkable degree of isomorphism between the onomatopoeic words of dis- 76Enn Veldi tant languages at the phoneme-type level; and isomorphic features, as a rule, predominate over allomorphic ones in any two languages of the world (Voronin 1982 and 1987). In addition, onomatopoeic words may sometimes reveal remarkably culture-specific features...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 74-85
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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