Sound symbolic patterns in Pokémon names

Shigeto Kawahara, Atsushi Noto, Gakuji Kumagai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper presents a case study of sound symbolism, cases in which certain sounds tend to be associated with particular meanings. We used the corpus of all Japanese Pokémon names available as of October 2016. We tested the effects of voiced obstruents, mora counts, and vowel quality on Pokémon characters' size, weight, strength parameters, and evolution levels. We found that the number of voiced obstruents in Pokémon names correlates positively with size, weight, evolution levels, and general strength parameters, except for speed. We argue that this result is compatible with the frequency code hypothesis of Ohala. The number of moras in Pokémon names correlates positively with size, weight, evolution levels, and all strength parameters. Vowel height is also shown to have an influence on size and weight-Pokémon characters with initial high vowels tend to be smaller and lighter, although the effect size is not very large. Not only does this paper offer a new case study of sound symbolism, it provides evidence that sound symbolism is at work when naming proper nouns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-244
Number of pages26
JournalPhonetica
Volume75
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Linguistics and Language

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