The role of sound symbolism in protolanguage: Some linguistic and archaeological speculations

Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera



In this paper, I have tried to clarify the role of sound symbolism in the early development of human language vocabulary The mimicking of natural sounds by means of an articulated language, producing onomatopoeic sound-symbolism could be considered as one first stage in human language vocabulary evolution. The following step consists in using sounds to symbolize phenomena perceptible by non-auditory senses. Sound symbolization began to relate certain sounds to the visual aspects of objects such as size or shape or to certain aspects of actions and states. This is called pheno-mimic sound-symbolism. The transition from phono-mimic or onomatopoeic sound symbolism to pheno-mimic sound representations can be related to the stage of human mind evolution proposed by S. Mithen (1996) in which domain-specific modules work together with a seamless flow of information across different domains. This is called cognitive fluidity. This cognitive fluidity could be responsible for the connection between different cognitive abilities: visual processing, auditory processing and the socialsemiotic activity of linguistic symbolism.

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