Phonaesthetics: the aesthetic value of sounds; "sounds for sound's sake".
Onomatopoeia: the imitation of sounds in words.
What noise do you hate most?
Write this noise down, using any devices you like to get it as close as possible.
Get someone else to pronounce your sound from the written version.
What have you learned from this about putting sound on paper?
Create one or more frames for a cartoon strip (e.g. Desperate Dan) that uses onomatopoeic words. These can be words that already exist or ones that you make up.
Identify the most common sounds in the words you've used. Do any patterns emerge?
List the ten words you like best for their sound.
Compare them with the list from the Sunday Times poll below
Sounds U Like
In 1980 the Sunday Times ran a poll to find out the ten most popular words. They were:
Are any of them the same or similar?
Look at all ten words, and identify and classify the most frequently used sounds. Can you spot any sounds that never, or hardly ever, occur? (You might get some clues from the sounds you've used in Tasks 1 and 2.)
What does this tell us about sounds we like and don't like?
If you were writing a romantic poem about the area in which you live, which place-names would you include, and which would you omit? Why?
Choose one of the following as an individual or group project:
Create an advertisement, for a real or invented product, that uses phonaesthetics.
Write a poem that uses phonaesthetics and/or onomatopoeia.
Create a set of children's book characters with appropriate names and draw them. They could be nonsense names, but must involve sound symbolism of some sort.
Further reading: The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language,
ed. David Crystal.
© CD Selwyn-Jones