Phonaesthetics is the claim or study of inherent pleasantness or beauty (euphony) or unpleasantness (cacophony) of the sound of certain
linguistic utterances. Poetryis often considered euphonic, as is well-crafted literary prose. Important phonaesthetic devices of poetry are rhyme, assonanceand alliteration. Closely related to euphony and cacophony is the concept of consonance and dissonance.
The phrase "
cellar door" has some notoriety as the reputedly most euphonic sound combination of the English language (specifically, when spoken with a British accent).
From this meaning should be distinguished the closely related but different concept of
phonaesthesia, which does not refer directly to aesthetic attributes of sound, but to phonetic elements that are inherently associated with a semanticmeaning. The term was introduced by J. R. Firthin 1930 "The phonæsthetic habits [...] and are of general importance in speech." Firth defined a phonaesthemeas "a phoneme or cluster of phonemes shared by a group of words which also have in common some element of meaning or function, though the words may be etymologically unrelated."
In most languages, difficult to pronounce phonetic combinations will be adapted to allow more flowing speech, for reasons of ease of pronunciation rather than
aesthetics. These adaptations will be sub-phonematic at first, but over several generations will lead to phonematically relevant sound changes
sandhi("euphonic" rules in Sanskrit grammar)
English and Welsh"
inherently funny word
Japanese sound symbolism
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
*Ross Smith, "Inside Language - Linguistic and Aesthetic Theory in Tolkien", Walking Tree Publishers (2007), ISBN 978-3-905703-06-1.
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