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HSE School of Linguistics Book on Animal Sounds Published by University of Provence

The book ‘Verba sonandi: Représentation linguistique des cris d'animaux’ edited by Ekaterina Rakhilina, Head of HSE School of Linguistics, has been published by the Publications de l'Université de Provence.

The book ‘Verba sonandi: Représentation linguistique des cris d animaux’ (‘Linguistic representation of animal sounds’) is dedicated to the study of verbs used for animal sounds based on over two dozen languages in different language families. The book is written by research fellows at the HSE School of Linguistics and French researchers.

People are often quick to give animals human characteristics, we can see it in fables, fairy tales, and even cartoons. We can also observe the reverse phenomenon in our languages — human behavior and characteristics often resemble features and habits of animals, birds, insects, etc. This book describes how people use verbs denoting animal sounds (to howl, to bark, to growl, to whine) to describe human actions: ‘the salesperson barked at me’,  ‘a wounded man howled in pain’, ‘the daughter was jumping around her dad cheerfully twittering’, etc.

The study is based on a large and varied volume of linguistic material: the authors have studied and described verbs used for animal sounds in 23 languages with different structures, from 7 different language families. The first part of the book offers a detailed consideration of the metaphorization of animal sounds in these languages.

The second part complements this linguistic analysis with cultural observations that include the representation of animals in literature and folklore from different cultures, and the role the verbs play in these works. The book may be of particular interest to linguists (especially typologists and metaphor researchers) as well as translators, literary critics, cultural specialists, and folklorists.

The database of animal sound verbs for this research was prepared as part of a project carried out by the Lexical and Typological Research group at the School of Linguistics. The researchers from the University of Provence Aix-Marseille I, who worked on the SEGEL project (Le Son entre Grammaire Et Lexique) from 2009 to 2012, also contributed to the database. The study of the semantic field of animal sounds has turned into a full-fledged typological project.