Onomatopeoia in sign language

Onomatopeoia is a term referring to the use of a word that resembles a sound it imitates. For example, words such as buzz, bang, squeak and crack are onomatopoetic.

MacDonald points out, "in this way, according to Paget, an intimate alliance between the sound of a word and its meaning can be traced in about four-fifths of all short words in the English language. This principle also applies to other tongues." [1] It is not different for visual-manual languages. I would like to redefine the concept of onomatopoeia.

"The term onomatopoeia originated from Late Latin and Greek meaning, "the making of a name or word (in imitation of a sound associated with the thing being named." The term onoma means "word, name" and the poiein "pose, make". The equivalent of onomatopoeia for visual-manual language is known as "iconicity", which implies a metaphysically underprivileged view of sign language on the same level as "image" rather than "word". By inspecting the etymological origin and definition of onomatopoeia, it can be theoretically applied to both spoken and signed languages. But if one desires to be specific to spoken onomatopoeia, then I am tempted to coin the terms phonomatopoeia (vocal-auditory), manumatopoeia or visonomatopoia (manual-visual), iconomatopoeia (visual-written, e.g. Chinese characters), and pictonomatopoeia (e.g. pictographs)."
Jolanta Lapiak, "and/or", 2007.

Many languages began with onomatopoeia and evolved to abstraction. Chinese characters first emerged from pictograph to ideograph. Painting and drawing, as we know, appear within the range of iconocity and abstraction.


Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=onomatopoeia

[1] Critchley, MacDonald. The Language of Gesture. London: Edward Arnold & Co. 1939. p 21.