About the Dictionary of English Phonesthemes

This dictionary is a collection of all the English phonesthemes known to the author. This dictionary clearly shows that phonesthetic sound symbolism is prevalent in the English language.

Many of the entries in this dictionary were directly copied from Marchand's book, The Categories and Types of Present-day English Word-Formation. Entries and instances were also gleaned from Hinton's, Nichols's and Ohala's book, Sound Symbolism. Phonesthemes are most active in simplex words. A simplex word is a either a monosyllabic word or a bisyllabic word with the accent on the first syllable. To aid me on my hunt for phonestheme instances, I wrote a UNIX script to help me pick out simplex words from customized electronic dictionary. Then I wrote a script to sort the words by pronunciation. I was thus able to automate most of the tedium involved in hunting down candidate words. As I was unable to automate the hunt for semantic similarities, there was still great deal of labor involved, particularly since my electronic dictionary has only very limited semantic information. In the future, I plan on learning how to access the WordNet, an extensive and free electronic word database.

This dictionary includes many obscure and archaic words. These words can be inherently interesting on their own and, moreover, they can illuminate interconnections among modern words that might not otherwise be apparent.

Although this dictionary appears to be a fairly comprehensive compilation, I believe that I've discovered only a small set of the phonestheme instances contained the English lexicon. This dictionary is a mere skeleton of what it could be and, fate allowing, I'll be adding to it for the rest of my life. Lyrics, poetry, well-written prose, dictionary browsing, and, of course, deipnosophy among unashamed logophiles can all trigger mind-expanding phonesthetic epiphanies; I look forward to many future hours of word grooving. 1