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The Universal Language of Iconicity

Dr Marcus Perlman delivers a University of Birmingham taster lecture for our undergraduate English Language degree courses.

The objectives for the lecture are to:
– Define the terms iconicity, arbitrariness and ideophone
– Explain the bouba-kiki effect
– Describe examples of iconicity in spoken languages
– Explain what it means to say that iconicity grounds meaning and provides a bridge for universal communication
– Savour iconicity in your daily lives

The Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham is a world-leading centre of excellence for both teaching and research. At one of the top 40 English departments in the world (QS 2020), you will explore, research and study a wide range of literary specialisms, from Old English to digital cultures, and everything in-between. Our English Language courses draw on Birmingham’s internationally renowned strength in applied linguistics, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, grammar and stylistics. You will be able to tailor the programme to suit your strengths and interests, and towards a wide range of careers.

Marcus Perlman is a lecturer in English Language and Linguistics. His research examines iconicity in speech and gesture, with special interest in the evolution of human communication. He also studies the gesturing and vocal behaviour of great apes.

00:00 Introduction
01:45 The Bouba-Kiki effect
06:47 Bouba/kiki with 2.5 year olds
09:53 Iconicity – resemblance between form and meaning
13:24 Ferdinand de Saussure – Arbitrary Nature of the Sign
15:24 Why would words be arbitrary?
17:03 Onamatopoeic words are found across languages
18:54 The call of the gecko
20:40 Japanese ideophones
25:50 Definition of ideophones
27:20 Japanese mimetics
31:13 The universal language of iconicity

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