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Onomatopoeia is the linguistic imitation of extra-linguistic sound events.

Alternative names are onomatopoeia , tone painting , onomatopoeia , sound imitation , onomatopoeia , sound word formation , Tonwortbildung , sound reproduction , Onomatopoiie , Onomatopoie and onomatopoeia (about lat. Onomatopoeia , of give a wiki. Ὄνομα ONOMA "Name", and ποίησις Poiesis here "creation, production," thus ὀνοματοποιεῖν onomatopoiein "to coin a name, to name").

Be differentiated

  • Word-forming onomatopoeia (pop, rumble, rattle, rustle, clink, snap, bark), which represent verb and noun stems, and
  • Interjections (Klipp-Klapp, Huhu, Au) .

There are also words that do not imitate a sound according to the stem, but name it and thereby imply it. In this case one speaks of “circumscribing onomatopoeia” (trumpeting, fluting, metallic [sounding]) .

The shield uses onomatopoeia to indicate that the clocks are noiseless.

Lexical meaning

From a lexical point of view, onomatopoeia is a foreign word based on mixed ancient Greek and French, since the form “-poesie” can only be traced back to ancient Greek ποίησις [poíesis] by means of French poésie and Latin poesia . In the German technical language of literature and linguistics, the purely Greek foreign words onomatopoeia, onomatopoeia and sometimes onomatopoietic (instead of onomatopoietic) as adjectives are therefore often preferred for puristic reasons to avoid language mixing. The named nouns (onomatopoeia, onomatopoeia, onomatopoeia) can each denote both the process of producing an onomatopoeic expression as well as the expression itself as the result of this process, while onomatopo (i) etikon / onomatopoetic (plural for both on -ka ) only for the result, the expression itself, is used.

Differences in individual languages

Onomatopoeia are normally not created as realistically as possible using all the articulatory possibilities of the human sound organs, but only with the help of the sound inventory already specified in the respective individual language. Since the sound inventories of the languages ​​differ and onomatopoeia are also subject to linguistic conventionalization within the language community, there are also more or less large differences between the onomatopoetics of different individual languages. The chirping of a bird, for example, is represented by Germans with chiep, chiep , by Japanese with pyu, pyu and by Greeks with tsiu, tsiu , or the cockcrow in German with kikeriki, in Dutch with kukeleku, in French with cocorico, in Spanish with quiquiriquí and in English with cock-a-doodle-doo . The tendency, however, can be established that the onomatopoeia of different languages ​​(e.g. German wau-wau, French ouaf-ouaf, English woof-woof ) show more similarities than the non-onomatopoietic terms in one and the same thing these languages (dog, chien, dog or originally hound) .


The linguistics deals with the onomatopoeia as a kind of word formation , particularly in children and Ammensprache - more recently, in the language of comics (. Bsp, in comicinspirierten Art Pop Art ) and Chat Fora of the Internet - is widespread . This type of word formation has shaped the historical vocabulary of the individual languages, especially in the area of ​​animal sounds and animal names derived from them, but also in the names of other noises and noise generators. Since onomatopoeia or the resulting and lexicalized words are subject to historical changes in sound and can experience additional changes through flexion and derivation , the onomatopoeic origin of a word is not always immediately recognizable (e.g. clap, sniff, snorkel) . Onomatopoeia are used as part of speech e.g. Some of them are treated under the interjections and specifically identify the subtype of the primary interjections. But other parts of speech (nouns: cuckoo , chiffchaff ; verbs: chilpen ) contain onomatopoeia.

Classification in rhetoric

In the tradition of ancient rhetoric , onomatopoeia was classified under the tropics . This classification goes back to the writing Peri tropon by the grammarian Gryphon , who did not yet specifically understand the tropics as types of improper, transference-based expression, but in a more general sense as a decorative and elucidating deviation from the usual linguistic usage that goes beyond what is necessary. As a trope in the narrower understanding that has been established since then, namely as metonymy , an onomatopoeia can apply specifically to the sound word used to imitate a sound in the meaning of the process of sound production (e.g. the mooing of the cow) or the sound- producing being (the cuckoo ) is transmitted. Modern rhetoric and silence teachings, on the other hand, treat onomatopoeia under the sound figures as a means of increasing or intensifying expression.

As a literary stylistic device, it does not necessarily apply to the single word, i. H. limited to the use of a single onomatopoeic expression, but the onomatopoeic effect can also be achieved by linking several words and combined with other sound figures such as alliteration , e.g. B. in the final stanza of Clemens Brentano's famous lullaby :

"Sing a song so sweetly, gently,
As the springs on the pebbles,
As the bees around the linden tree
hum, murmur, whisper, trickle."

Or in the verse in which Ovid loudly evokes the croaking of the frogs without even naming them ( Metamorphoses VI, 376):

" Quam vis sint sub aqua , sub aqua maledicere temptant"

"Although they are underwater, they try to blaspheme underwater"

- Ovid

Comic language

In the German comic language, the creation of new, as unusual as possible, onomatopoeia, especially by Erika Fuchs ( Micky Mouse magazine ) and Herbert Feuerstein ( Mad magazine ), was elevated to art, which is why the term ericative is sometimes jokingly used .

In addition to conventional onomatopoeia and new creations such as ZASS! KRRRRZZZ or ZABADONG, the comic also uses inflectives of words that are only of onomatopoietic origin in terms of their etymology ( e.g. SIGH! Or PELET! ), And inflectives of circumscribing onomatopoeia (TOE!) .

See also


  • Karl Bühler : Language theory: the representation function of language. Fischer, Jena 1934, 3rd edition (reprint), Lucius & Lucius, Stuttgart 1999 (= UTB. Volume 1159), pp. 195-216 (§ 13: The onomatopoeic language ).
  • Hermann Hilmer: Sound imitation. Word creation and change in meaning. Max Niemeyer, Halle a. S. 1914, ISBN 0-392-30417-1 .
  • Heinz Wissemann: Investigations on the onomatopoeia. 1st part: The language psychological experiments. Habilitation University of Münster . Winter, Heidelberg 1954.
  • Michael Gross: On the linguistic problematization of the onomatopoietic. Buske, Hamburg 1988 (= Forum phoneticum. Volume 42), ISBN 3-87118-910-3 .
  • Gerhard Kero: Do you speak rhythm? Onomatopoeia in learning melorhythmic patterns . Hollitzer, Vienna 2019, ISBN 978-3-99012-577-9 .
To individual languages
  • Andreas Lötscher: Semantic structures in the area of ​​Old and Middle High German sound words. De Gruyter, Berlin 1973 (= sources and research on the linguistic and cultural history of the Germanic peoples. N. F., Volume 53), ISBN 3-11-003870-6 .
  • Harri Meier : Primary and Secondary Onomatopoeia and Other Studies on Romance Etymology. Winter, Heidelberg 1975 (= collection of Romanesque elementary and handbooks. Series 5, Vol. 9), ISBN 3-533-02356-7 / 3-533-02355-9.
  • Ernst J. Havlik: Lexicon of Onomatopoeia. The sound imitating words in the comic. Dieter Fricke, Frankfurt am Main 1981 ISBN 3-88184-036-2 .
  • Eva Tichy: Onomatopoietic Verbal Formations in Greek. Verlag der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1983 (= session reports of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class. Volume 409; Publications of the Commission for Linguistics and Communication Research . Volume 14), ISBN 3-7001-0559-2 .

Web links

Commons : Onomatopoeia  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Onomatopoeia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst J. Havlik: Lexicon of Onomatopoeia. The sound imitating words in the comic . Dieter Fricke, Frankfurt am Main 1981 a. Two thousand and one, Frankfurt am Main 1991 (reprint).