The relationship between ideophones and gestures has only recently been studied and is not yet completely understood. The topic has been specifically addressed by Kita (1993), Klassen (1998), Dingemanse (2013), Mihas (2013), and Reiter (2013). Yet there has been little focus on onomatopoeic ideophones. Onomatopoeic ideophones have been set aside as different by many previous researchers (Klassen, 1998, pp. 28-31; Kilian-Hatz, 2001, pp. 161-163; Dingemanse, 2011, pp. 131, 165-167; Mihas, 2012, pp. 327-329; Reiter, 2013, pp. 9-10, 308). Being stigmatized as simple, they have been labeled as "sound mimicking words" (McGregor, 2002, p. 341), "non-linguistic sounds" (Güldemann, 2008, p. 283), or "imitative sounds" (Hinton et al., 1994, §2.1). This thesis specifically addresses the relationship between onomatopoeic ideophones and gestures in Pastaza Quichua (PQ). My data acquired from primary and secondary sources, consists of 69 interactions, comprising eight hours of video recordings collected in Tena, Ecuador. These recordings include traditional narratives, personal experience tellings, elicited descriptions of nature, short didactic explanations, and folksongs. My methodology consists of close examination, classification, and tagging of 435 ideophones in the PQ data for sensory class and gestural accompaniment, using McNeill's (1992) typology. This thesis demonstrates that onomatopoeic ideophones do not have the same relationship with gestures that synesthetic ideophones do. Synesthetic ideophones are consistently accompanied by gestures (94.4% of the time) while onomatopoeic ideophones are much less likely to be accompanied by gestures (27.0% of the time). The lack of gestures occurring with onomatopoeic ideophones is striking given that PQ speakers seem to be constantly gesturing during speech. The PQ data supports previous observations that most gestures accompanying ideophones are iconic (Kunene, 1965; Dingemanse, 2013; Reiter, 2013; Mihas, 2013; Kita, 1993). The data also supports McNeill's (2007, p. 11) statement that gestures are used to make an image more real and that repetition can lead to fading gestures. However, it challenges his prediction that a minimal departure from context is the cause of a conspicuous lack of gesture. Sensory type, that is whether an ideophone is onomatopoeic or not, seems to be the most important factor in predicting gestural behavior. This paper also contributes to a better understanding of the relationship between ideophones and gestures and, ultimately, between language and gesture.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





Quichua, Quechua, Ideophones, Gesture, Onomatopoeia, Mimetics, Iconicity



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Linguistics Commons