Published In

Studies in the Linguistic Sciences

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1989


Kissi language -- Ideophone, Kissi language -- Verb, African languages, Comparative and general grammar -- Word formation -- Case studies


This paper begins with an analysis of ideophones in Kisi (West Atlantic, Guinea). This examination leads to consideration of the diachrony of ideophones, but because of the lack of data with any real time depth, we are limited to finding clues in the synchronic data. This study looks first at verbs, the class of words which Kisi ideophones resemble most closely. Such is also the case in other African languages, where ideophones can often be analyzed as verbs, as has been done for several Southern Bantu languages. I then demonstrate how Kisi ideophones can be derived from verbs, illustrating several possible scenarios for such a process. I then look at possible derivational relationships with other word categories, finding that with other word categories the direction of derivation is the opposite. For example, nouns are derived from ideophones but no vice versa. This generalization holds across other African languages as well and may be true for expressive language in general.


Originally appeared in Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, volume 19, number 2, Fall 1989, published by the Dept. of Linguistics, University of Illinois.

Persistent Identifier