Lexicography in-your-face: The active semantics of Pastaza Quichua ideophones

Janis B. Nuckolls, Tod Swanson, Diana Shelton, Alexander Rice, Sarah Hatton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We argue that a multimodal approach to defining a depictive class of words called ‘ideophones’ by linguists is essential for grasping their meanings. Our argument for this approach is based on the formal properties of Pastaza Quichua ideophones, which set them apart from the non-ideophonic lexicon, and on the cultural assumptions brought by speakers to their use. We analyze deficiencies in past attempts to define this language’s ideophones, which have used only audio data. We offer, instead, an audiovisual corpus which we call an ‘antidictionary’, because it defines words not with other words, but with clips featuring actual contexts of use. The major discovery revealed by studying these clips is that ideophones’ meanings can be clarified by means of a distinction found in modality and American Sign Language studies. This distinction between speaker-internal and speaker-external perspective is evident in the intonational and gestural details of ideophones’ use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-172
Number of pages19
JournalCanadian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Gesture
  • Ideophones
  • Lexicography
  • Pragmatics
  • Quechua

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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