Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Tyko Dirksmeyer


Expressives are a distinct class of words which denote sensory perceptions of the speaker; describing visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, haptic, emotional or other types of perceptions in relation to particular phenomena. Based on current documentary work, expressives are found mostly in Asian and African languages, as well as in some South American languages. This elicitation task is based on successful exploratory elicitation of expressives in the Southeast Asian Mon-Khmer language Semai. The goal of performing this task cross-linguistically in regard to expressives is manifold: To establish whether it is possible to capture expressives adequately using elicitation tasks; to contribute towards data collection for comparative research on linguistic coding of sensory perceptions; to provide comparative data for research on sound symbolism; to outline speakers’ meta-linguistic knowledge of expressives, and general attitude towards usage, as well as agreement on meaning and finally to investigate the relation between expressives and other communicative tools, such as gestures.


This Field Manual entry, and the accompanying audio stimuli, can be downloaded from the MPG Publication Repository:

Due to copyright restrictions the video clips are not available for distribution.

How to cite this resource?

Tufvesson, S. (2007). Expressives. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 53-58). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492919.