Onomatopoiea

Onomatopoiea.  There’s a word for you.  As you probably know, it means a word that imitates or resembles a sound.  (Despite what you may have been led to believe, I don’t think that the fox actually says Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!  Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!  Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! but that {insert the adjective of your choice} song does have a lot of onomatopoiea in it.)

Does your language actually affect how you hear things?  Obviously, it affects how you vocalize things.  I ask this because, somehow or other, my Cafetalk tutor and I got to talking about the sounds that animals make.  I’m guess that sheep in Japan actually sound pretty much the same as sheep in America, but the way English and Japanese represent those sounds is rather different.

Animal English Sound Japanese Sound
cat meow, miao Nyāo / nyān
cow Moo Mou mou
dog bow wow / ruff / arf wan wan
frog ribbet ribbet gero gero / geko geko
sheep baa mei mei
rooster cock-a-doodle-do kokekokko
pig oink Buu buu
chick peep Piyo piyo
duck quack Gaa gaa
lion roar gaou

Also, Japanese uses onomatopoiea for things that don’t necessarily make sounds.  Yes, I know that seems contradictory.  You might call it something like symbolic onomatopoiea, I guess.

例えば (for example):

wakuwaku – to be excited

jirojiro – to stare

kirakira – to sparkle

dokidoki – with a throbbing heart (okay, that one’s a real sound)

pinpin – to be lively (think of it as kind of bouncing around)

yoboyobo – to have wobbly legs due to advanced age

(Lots of these words actually have things like する attached to them, but I’ve left those endings off to make the “sound” part a bit more obvious.)

Japanese is just interesting that way.

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