Service interruption on Monday 11 July from 12:30 to 13:00: all the sites of the CCSD (HAL, EpiSciences, SciencesConf, AureHAL) will be inaccessible (network hardware connection).
Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

The sound of taboo: Exploring a sound-meaning association in swear words of English and French

Abstract : Swear words of English and French, both real and fictional ones, significantly tend to contain the least sonorous consonants, compared to the rest of the lexicon. What can explain the overrepresentation of such sounds among swear words? This might be a case of sound symbolism, when sounds are unconsciously associated with a meaning. We examine the pragmatic vs. semantic nature of the meaning involved, as well as two explanations in terms of iconicity (plosives may be associated with “violation of hearer’s space”, or unsonorous consonants may be associated with “aggression”). This unusual sound-meaning pairing would involve an emotional-contextual, non-truth-conditional meaning, and be powerful enough that it influences a strong sociolinguistic convention – which words are swear words and which ones are not – suggesting that sounds convey meaning in yet unsuspected ways.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03653423
Contributor : Maarten Lemmens Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 5:19:16 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 3:35:50 AM

Identifiers

Collections

Citation

Robin Vallery, Maarten Lemmens. The sound of taboo: Exploring a sound-meaning association in swear words of English and French. Array, Elsevier, 2021, 28 (1), pp.87-137. ⟨10.1075/pc.20021.val⟩. ⟨halshs-03653423⟩

Share

Metrics

Record views

10