Pokémonikers: A study of sound symbolism and Pokémon names

Stephanie S. Shih, Jordan Ackerman, Noah Hermalin, Sharon Inkelas, Darya Kavitskaya


Sound symbolism flouts the core assumption of the arbitrariness of the sign in human language. The cross-linguistic prevalence of sound symbolism raises key questions about the universality versus language-specificity of sound symbolic correspondences. One challenge to studying cross-linguistic sound symbolic patterns is the difficulty of holding constant real-world referents across cultures. In this study, we address the challenge of cross-linguistic comparison by utilising a rich, cross-linguistic dataset drawn from the Pokémon game franchise. Within this controlled universe, we compare the sound symbolisms of Japanese and English Pokémon names (pokemonikers). Our results show a tendency in both languages to encode the same attributes with sound symbolism, but also reveal key differences rooted in language-specific structural and lexical constraints.


sound symbolism; iconicity; names; onomastics; phonology; corpus linguistics; cognitive science

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v3i1.4335

Copyright (c) 2018 Stephanie S. Shih, Jordan Ackerman, Noah Hermalin, Sharon Inkelas, Darya Kavitskaya

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