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A study of the productivity of twelve English onset phonaesthemes

Willett, Michael 2015. A study of the productivity of twelve English onset phonaesthemes. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis studies twelve word-initial phonaesthemes identified in the vocabulary of English. Phonaesthemes (Firth, 1930; 1935) are phonotactic sequences that recur in multiple words with similar meanings. While several scholars have discussed these phonaesthemes (e.g. Sturtevant, 1947; Marchand, 1966; Bowles, 1995), no study has yet provided a detailed quantitative account of the extent to which they are present in the vocabulary of English or any other language. Moreover, no study has yet investigated whether these patterns are associations that speakers actually perceive, or what might influence their perception. In response to these gaps in the literature, this thesis begins with a quantitative study of the extent to which the twelve phonaesthemes are present in the vocabularies of three languages; English, French and Polish. This involves calculating and comparing the number of different words that exhibit each phonaestheme in the three languages. The study then investigates whether native speakers of English, French and Polish actually perceive the phonaesthemes. This is measured by studying the extent to which speakers productively associate the twelve phonotactic sequences with their respective meanings in the context of coined words. Finally, the study investigates a number of factors that could affect the extent to which the phonaesthemes are perceptible patterns. The findings indicate clear quantitative evidence of all twelve phonaesthemes in the vocabulary of English. Nine of the phonaesthemes are also evident in the vocabularies of French and Polish; however, eleven of the twelve patterns are more pervasive in English. In addition, the productive experiments find that all twelve phonaesthemes are perceived by English speakers; though some are more consistently perceived than others. It is clear from these experiments that each phonaestheme is more widely and perceived in English than in French or Polish. Finally, it appears that one key factor affecting the perceptibility and thus productivity of the phonaesthemes is the number of different meanings with which the phonotactic sequences recur.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Funders: AHRC
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:00
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/71573

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