The pluripotentiality of bilabial consonants: The images of softness and cuteness in Japanese and English
Gakuji Kumagai
October 2020

The current study experimentally examined whether labial consonants were sound-symbolically associated with the images of softness and cuteness in Japanese and English. The results showed that all the bilabial consonants [p, b, m, ɸ, w] used in Japanese convey such images. In English, the consonants evoking the image of softness were bilabials, but not labiodentals, and those linked to the image of cuteness were unaspirated, low-frequency bilabials. These results demonstrated the pluripotentiality of sound symbolism, meaning that a certain set of linguistic sounds evokes different meanings and images both within a single language and across languages (e.g. Kawahara & Kumagai to appear; Winter et al. 2019). Moreover, under the backcloth that the description of the glide /w/ concerning the place-of-articulation in Japanese and English is not uncontroversial, the current paper indicates—based on the current sound-symbolic experimental results—that the glide /w/ is phonologically labial in each language.
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Reference: lingbuzz/005481
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Open Linguistics
keywords: sound symbolism, bilabial consonants, softness and cuteness, phonology
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