Thursday, June 4, 2009


Due to my recent trip to Kenya, Ethiopia and Somali- "we are not Somalia" -land, and a good dose of laziness/uninspiration, I have been silent for far too long, but meeting the famous Ideophone and Jabal, known in the real world as Mark and Lameen, has inspired me to throw up a little something of an effort. Mark was presenting some of his work on the use of Siwu ideophones at SOAS, along with one of his colleagues from the Netherlands, presenting on ideophones in Semai, a Malay language. Some of the ideophones Mark shared that stuck out to me were these contrasting ideophones dealing with burning:
continuous burning: suuuuuuuu
piercing sporadic burning: yuaiuaiuai
This came directly after the use of an ideophone to describe "urinating forcefully out of a small opening" [tsiririri] - I wonder if it was in the same conversation and whether it was the yuaiuaiuai burning sensation, or the suuuuu burning sensation that accompanied the urinating... not that I am a doctor or anything.

One of the other highlights of Mark's presentation for me was hearing some songs in Siwu that contained ideophones, though I leave it to him to explain the meaning of kpia, kpia wagala wagala ee - hopefully he will write a post on ideophones in songs that expands on this one on kananana.

While in Kenya I met a few linguists who were working on languages there, and came across this resource online which has a number of songs, particularly of nomadic Kenyan ethnic groups some of my favorites were this Bajuni one, and another with an amazing lyre called an obokano. This one definitely sounds like it has some ideophones in, but I don't know the first thing about the Gusii language, so it is pure conjecture based on some of the sound patterns - anyone have better ears than I?


mark said...

Hey, it was nice to meet you in London! I can't listen to the sound samples unfortunately, it produces a message about hotlinking.

The punctual burning ideophone in Siwu, by the way, is yuayuayua. I wrote a little about those ideophones here. (No, not about kpia and wagala yet. I'll do that when I'm in need of lots of traffic.)

khawaji said...

ah yes - looks like the website blocks any incoming links - you can find them on
also good to have the spelling correction on the piercing burning sensation. thanks Mark!