Skip to main content Accessibility help

Basque ideophones from a typological perspective

  • Iraide Ibarretxe-Antuñano (a1)


Ideophones are described as expressive marked linguistic units with a dramaturgic depictive function. Although commonly regarded in traditional general linguistics as rare and marginal, recent research on this topic has shown that these elements are pervasive in all languages and that they might share some linguistic characteristics across languages. This article analyses Basque ideophones from a typological perspective. The main goal is to describe the structure, meaning and function of Basque ideophones and to discuss how the Basque ideophonic system fits into the cross-linguistic characterisation of these linguistic units.

On décrit les idéophones comme des unités linguistiques marquées, expressives, et dotées d'une fonction de représentation dramaturgique. Bien que considérés rares et marginaux dans les travaux de linguistique générale traditionnelle, des recherches récentes démontrent que ces éléments sont bien enracinés dans toutes les langues, et certains proposent que les idéophones partagent certaines caractéristiques à travers les langues humaines. Cet article présente une analyse typologique des idéophones basques; son principal objectif est de décrire la structure, le sens et la fonction des idéophones basques et d'examiner comment ils se s'insèrent dans une caractérisation de ces éléments à l’échelle des langues du monde.


Corresponding author


Hide All

Research funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MovEs Project, FF12010-14903, FFI2013-45553-C3-1-P). Special thanks to Solveiga Armoskaite for organising the workshop “Structuring sensory imagery: Ideophones across languages and cultures” (University of Rochester, May 2014). I would also like to thank the workshop audience as well as to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. RRYrentzat, adiskide onekin, orenak labur.



Hide All
Akita, Kimi. 2006. The “embodied” semantics of Japanese psych mimetics. Master's thesis, Kobe University.
Akita, Kimi, Imai, Mutsumi, Saji, Noburo, Kantartzis, Katerina, and Kita, Sotaro. 2013. Mimetic vowel harmony. In Japanese/Korean Linguistics 20, ed. Frellesvig, Bjarke and Sells, Peter, 115129.
Allott, Robin. 1995. Sound symbolism. In Language in the würm glaciation, ed. Figge, Udo L., 1538. Bochum: Brockmeyer.
de Alzo, Fray Diego. 1961. Estudio sobre el euskera hablado [A study of spoken Basque]. San Sebastián: Gráf. Izarra.
Amha, Azeb. 2001. Ideophones and compound verbs in Wolaitta. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 4962. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Awoyale, Yiwola. 1989. Reduplication and the status of ideophones in Yoruba. Journal of West African Languages 19(1): 1534.
Azkue, Resurrección M. 1905–1906. Diccionario vasco-español-francés I–II [Basque-Spanish-French dictionary I–II]. Bilbao: La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca.
Azkue, Resurrección M. 1923–25. Morfología vasca [Basque morphology] Bilbao: Euskaltzaindia.
Barrett, Rusty. 2014. Ideophones and (non-)arbitrariness in the K'iche’ poetry of Humberto Ak'abal. Pragmatics and Society 5(3): 406418.
Beck, David. 2008. Ideophones, adverbs, and predicate modifiers in Upper Necaxa Totonac. International Journal of American Linguistics 74(1): 146.
Blunt, Robert. 2003. The phonestheme N- in Austronesian languages. Oceanic Linguistics 42(1): 187212.
Bodomo, Adams B. 2006. The structure of ideophones in African and Asian languages: The case of Dagaare and Cantonese. In Selected proceedings of the 35 th Annual Conference on African linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics in Broad Perspectives, ed. John Mugane, John P. Hutchison, and Dee A. Worman, 203–213. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.
Bradshaw, Joel. 2006. Grammatically marked ideophones in Numbami and Jabêm. Oceanic Linguistics 45(1): 5363.
Childs, George Tucker. 1994a. African ideophones. In Studies in sound symbolism, ed. Hinton, Leanne, Nichols, Johanna, and Ohala, John, 247279. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Childs, George Tucker. 1994b. Expressiveness in contact situations: The fate of African ideophones. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 9(2): 257282.
Childs, George Tucker. 1996. Where have all the ideophones gone? The death of a word category in Zulu. Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 15(2): 81103.
Childs, George Tucker. 1997. The status of Isicamtho, a Nguni-based urban variety of Soweto. In The structure and status of pidgins and creoles, ed. Spears, Arthur K. and Winford, Donald, 341367. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Childs, George Tucker. 1998. Ideophone variation is tied to local identity. In The sociolinguistics of language and society: Selected papers from SS IX, ed. Verma, Mahendra K., 3646. London: Sage.
Childs, George Tucker. 2001. Research on ideophones, whither hence? In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 6373. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Childs, George Tucker. 2003. An introduction to African languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Coyos, Battittu. 2000. Les onomatopées rédupliquées en basque souletin. Lapurdum 5: 1397.
Diffloth, Gérard. 1972. Notes on expressive meaning. Papers from the Eighth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society, ed. Peranteau, Paul M., Levi, Judith N., and Phares, Gloria C., 440447. Chicago: CLS.
Dingemanse, Mark. 2011. The meaning and use of ideophones in Siwu. Doctoral dissertation, Radboud University Nijmegen.
Dingemanse, Mark. 2012. Advances in the cross-linguistic study of ideophones. Language and Linguistics Compass 6(10): 654672.
Dingemanse, Mark. 2013. Ideophones and gesture in everyday speech. Gesture 13(2): 143165.
Dingemanse, Mark, and Akita, Kimi. 2016. An inverse relation between expressiveness and system integration: depiction, description and the typology of ideophones, with special reference to Japanese. Journal of Linguistics First View doi-org/10.1017/S002222671600030X
Doke, Clement M. 1935. Bantu linguistic terminology. London: Longman, Green and Co.
Egbokhare, Francis O. 2001. Phonosemantic correspondences in Emai attributive ideophones. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 8796. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Elders, Stefan. 2001. Defining ideophones in Mundang. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 97110. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Elordieta, Gorka. 1998. Intonation in a pitch accent variety of Basque. Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca ‘Julio de Urquijo’ 23(2): 511569.
Euskaltzaindia, . 1991–2005. Euskal gramatika. Lehen urratsak [Basque grammar: First steps]. Bilbao: Euskaltzaindia.
Fónagy, Ivan. 1991. La vive voix. Essais de psycho-phonétique. Paris: Payot. [1983]
Fortune, George. 1962. Ideophones in Shona. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gabas, Nilson Jr., and Van der Auwera, Johan. 2004. Ideophones in Karo. In Language, culture, and mind, ed. Achard, Michel and Kemmer, Suzanne, 397413. Stanford: CSLI Publications.
García de Diego, Vicente. 1968. Diccionario de voces naturales [Dictionary of natural voices]. Madrid: Aguilar.
van Gijn, Rik. 2010. Middle voice and ideophones: A diachronic connection. The case of Yurakaré. Studies in Language 34(2): 273297.
Le Guen, Olivier. 2012. Ideophones in Yucatec Maya. In Proceedings of the Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America-V, 26 pp. Austin, TX: AILLA. Available at
Hamano, Shoko. 1998. The sound symbolic system of Japanese. Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
Harrison, K. David. 2004. South Siberian sound symbolism. In Languages and prehistory of central Siberia, ed. Vajda, Edward J., 197211. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hinton, Leanne, Nichols, Johanna, and Ohala, John, eds. 1994. Sound symbolism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hockett, Charles F. 1958. A course in modern linguistics. New York: Macmillan.
Hualde, José Ignacio. 1991. Basque phonology. London: Routledge.
Hualde, José Ignacio, Lakarra, Joseba Andoni, and Trask, R. Larry, eds. 1995. Towards a history of the Basque language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hualde, José Ignacio, and de Urbina, Jon Ortiz, eds. 2003. A grammar of Basque. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide. 2004. Motion events in Basque narratives. In Relating events in narrative: Typological and contextual perspectives, ed. Strömqvist, Sven and Verhoeven, Ludo, 89111. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide. 2006a. Hizkuntzaren bihotzean. Euskal onomatopeien hiztegia. Euskara-Ingelesera-Gaztelera [At the heart of Basque language. Basque onomatopoeia dictionary: Basque-English-Spanish]. Donostia: Gaiak.
Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide. 2006b. Sound symbolism and motion in Basque. München: LINCOM Europa.
Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide. 2012. Análisis lingüístico de las onomatopeyas vascas [Linguistic analysis of Basque ideophones]. Oihenart: Cuadernos de Lengua y Literatura 27: 129176.
Jendraschek, Gerd. 2001. Semantic and structural properties of Turkish ideophones. Turkic Languages 5: 88103.
Jendraschek, Gerd. 2002. Semantische Eigenschaften von Ideophonen im Türkischen [Semantic properties of ideophones in Turkish]. München: LINCOM Europa.
Jendraschek, Gerd. 2012. A grammar of Iatmul. Habilitationsschrift, Universität Regensburg.
de Jong, Nicky. 2001. The ideophone in Didinga. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 120138. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kabuta, N.S. 2001. Ideophones in Cilubà. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 139154. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kanu, Sullay Mohamed. 2008. Ideophones in Tamnu. Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics 20: 120134.
Kita, Sotaro. 1993. Language and thought interface: A study of spontaneous gestures and Japanese mimetics. Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
Kita, Sotaro. 1997. Two-dimensional semantic analysis of Japanese mimetics. Linguistics 35(2): 379416.
Klink, Richard R. 2000. Creating brand names with meaning: The use of sound symbolism. Marketing Letters 11(1): 520.
Klink, Richard R. 2003. Creating meaningful brands: The relationship between brand name and brand mark. Marketing Letters 14(3): 143157.
Kulemeka, Andrew T. C. 1993. The status of the ideophone in Chichewa. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University.
Kruspe, Nicole. 2004. A grammar of Semelai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kunene, Daniel P. 1978. The ideophone in Southern Sotho. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
Kunene, Daniel P. 2001. Speaking the act: the ideophone as a linguistic rebel. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F.K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 183191. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Lahti, Katherine. 2014. Ideophones in Vladimir Mayakovsky's work. Pragmatics and Society 5(3): 419430.
Laspiur-Zabala, Imanol. 1999. Eibarrera jatorraren bidetik [Eibarrese the right way]. Eibar: …eta kitto! Euskara Elkartea.
de Lecuona, Manuel. 1964. Literatura oral vasca [Basque oral literature]. Donostia: Auñamendi.
Lydall, Jean. 2002. Having fun with ideophones: A sociolinguistic look at ideophones in Haman, Southern Ethiopia. In Ethiopian studies at the end of the second millenium. Volume 2, ed. Yiman, Baye, 886911. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
Marivate, Cornelius Tennyson Daniel. 1982. The ideophone in Tsonga. Pretoria: University of South Africa.
Magnus, Margaret. 2001. What's in a word: studies in phonosemantics. Doctoral dissertation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim.
McFarland, Teresa. 2010. Ideophones and templatic morphology in Totonac. In Rara & rarissima: Documenting the fringes of linguistic diversity, ed. Wohlgemuth, Jan and Cysouw, Michael, 235246. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
McGregor, William B. 1996. Sound symbolism in Gooniyandi, a language of Western Australia. Word 47(1): 339364.
Michelena, Luis. 1985. Fonética histórica vasca [Basque historical phonetics]. Donostia: Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia.
Mihas, Elena I. 2012. Ideophones in Alto Perené (Arawak) from Eastern Peru. Studies in Language 36(2): 300344.
Mikone, Eve. 2001. Ideophones in the Balto-Finnic languages. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 223233. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Morvan, Michel. 1996. Les origines linguistiques du Basque. Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.
Moshi, Lioba. 1993. Ideophones in KiVunjo-Chaga. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 3(2): 185216.
Msimang, C. T. 1987. Impact of Zulu on Tsotsitaal. South African Journal of African Languages 7(3): 8286.
Nakagawa, Hiroshi. 2011. A first report on G|ui ideophones. In Geographical typology and linguistic areas: with special reference to Africa, ed. Hieda, Osamu, Köking, Christa, and Nakagawa, Hiroshi, 279286. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Newmeyer, Frederick. 1993. Iconicity and generative grammar. Language 68(4): 756796.
Nodier, Charles. 1808. Dictionnaire raisonné des onomatopées françaises. Paris: Demonville.
Noss, Philip. 2001. Ideas, phones, and Gbaya verbal art. In Ideophones, ed. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 259270. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Nuckolls, Janis B. 1996. Sounds like life: Sound-symbolic grammar, performance, and cognition in Pastaza Quechua. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nuckolls, Janis B. 1999. The case for sound symbolism. Annual Review of Anthropology 28(1): 225252.
Nuckolls, Janis B. 2001. Ideophones in Pastaza Quechua. In Ideophones, eds. Erhard Voeltz, F. K. and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, 271285. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Nuckolls, Janis B. 2006. The neglected poetics of ideophony. In Language, culture and the individual, ed. O'Neil, Catherine, Scoggin, Mary, and Tuite, Kevin, 3950. München: LINCOM Europa.
Rai, Novel K., Bickel, Balthasar, Banjad, Goma, Gaenszle, Martin, Lieven, Elena, Paudyal, Netra, Rai, Ichchha P., Rai, Manoj, and Stoll, Sabine. 2005. Triplication and ideophones in Chintang. In Contemporary issues in Nepalese linguistics, ed. Yadava, Yogendra P., 205210. Kathmandu: Linguistic Society of Nepal.
Reiter, Sabine. 2012. Ideophones in Awetí. Doctoral dissertation, Universität zu Köln.
Riera-Eures, Manel, and Sanjaume, Margarida. 2010. Diccionari d'onomatopeies i altres interjeccions [Dictionary of onomatopoeia and other interjections]. Barcelona: Eumo.
de Rijk, Rudolf P. G. 2008. Standard Basque. A progressive grammar. Volume 1: The grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Salaburu, Pello, Goenaga, Patxi, and Sarasola, Ibon, eds. 2011. Sareko euskal gramatika [Basque grammar online]. <>
Samarin, William J. 1965. Perspective on African ideophones. African Studies 24(2): 117121.
Santisteban, Karlos. 2007. Onomatopeia eta adierazpen hotsen hiztegia [A dictionary of onomatopoeia and expressive sounds]. Bilbao: Gero.
de Saussure, Ferdinand. 1959. Cours de linguistique générale, ed. Bally, Charles, Sechehaye, Albert and Riedlinger, Albert. Lausanne: Payot. [1916].
Schuchardt, Hugo. 1925. Das Baskische und die Sprachwissenschaft [Basque and linguistics]. Wien: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky A.-G.
Shrump, L. J., Lowrey, T. M., Luna, David, Lerman, D. B., and Liu, Min. 2012. Sound symbolism effects across languages: Implications for global brand names. International Journal of Research in Marketing 29(3): 275279.
Smithers, Geoffrey Victor. 1954. Some English ideophones. Archivum Linguisticum 6(2): 73111.
Smythe Kung, Susan. 2006. Simbolismo del sonido y el lenguaje expresivo en el Tepehua de Huehuetla [Sound symbolism and expressive language in Huehuetla Tepehua]. In Memorias del VIII Encuentro Internacional de Lingüística en el Noroeste, tomo 3 [Proceedings of the eighth international meeting of linguistics in the northeast, volume 3], ed. Morúa, Leyva and del Carmen, María, 331354. Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico: Editorial UniSon.
Tosco, Mauro. 1998. Somali ideophones. Journal of African Cultural Studies 11(2): 125156.
Trask, R. Larry. 1997. The history of Basque. London: Routledge.
Velasco, Carlos, Salgado-Montejo, Alejandro, Marmolejo-Ramos, Fernando, and Spence, Charles. 2014. Predictive packaging design: Tasting shapes, typefaces, names, and sounds. Food Quality and Preference 34: 8895.
Voeltz, F. K. Erhard and Kilian-Hatz, Christa, eds. 2001. Ideophones. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Webster, Anthony K. 2009. The poetics and politics of Navajo ideophony in contemporary Navajo poetry. Language and Communication 29(2): 133151.
Webster, Anthony K. 2014. Rex Lee Jim's ‘Na'asts’ǫǫsí’. On iconicity, interwoven-ness, and ideophones. Pragmatics and Society 5(3): 431444.
Wilson, William A. A. 1961. An outline of the Temne language. London: University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.
Wissemann, Heinz. 1954. Untersuchungen zur Onomatopöie. 1. Teil: Di sprachpsychologischen Versuche [Investigations of onomatopoeia. Part 1. Psycholinguistic experiments]. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag.
Yorkston, Eric, and Menon, Geeta. 2004. A sound idea: Phonetic effects of brand names on consumer judgements. Journal of Consumer Research 31(1): 4351.
Yu Cho, Young-mee. 2006. Sound symbolism in Korean. In Korean language in culture and society, ed. Sohn, Ho-min, 6473. Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i Press.
Zamarripa, Pablo. 1987. Manual del vascófilo [A handbook for basquephiles]. Bilbao: Wilsen Ed. [1914].
Gandiaga, Bitoriano. 2004. Adio. Donostia: Elkar.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Basque ideophones from a typological perspective

  • Iraide Ibarretxe-Antuñano (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.