Every Sound Says Something

Phonosemantics is a hypothesis where it is believed that as and when we speak or listen to any sound, we feel a corresponding psychological feeling inside. Every sound has specific meaning provided by nature. The theory propounded here explains the psychological meanings of maximum usable IPA (International Phonetic alphabets) sounds. It also explains the formation of words with the help of phonosemantics. Modern linguists have lots of doubts regarding phonosemantics. The theory tries to resolve most of them along with the question of ‘natural’ and ‘arbitrary’ symbolism in detail. The theory explains the process of naming any object or event. It explains different names for the same object, the same name for different objects, historical phonology, chain shift of phonemes, morphophonology, non-human agonistic vocalization, intonations etc. The theory explains a new theory of ‘evolution of languages’ on the basis of phonosemantics.

The theory further explains that sounds which are physical signals are converted into biological impulses, are further converted into psychological feelings, and then converted into intellectual meanings. All these conversions are made within the ‘unitary code’. The code is explained in the form of a model supporting the sounds and related psychological feelings simultaneously.

Sound is a vocal gesture

All animals including humans have different modes of communications. These modes are gestures (different types of body movements), facial expressions, color changes, smells, emissions of light, vocalizations (sounds) etc. Each mode is made of a large number of signals. These signals are capable of evolving an individual language. We have different types of languages e.g. sound language, smell language, body language, facial expression language etc. All types of languages have the capability to convey a common psychological message. For example, the sound of /n/ and a negating facial expression, both signals can convey the same psychological message of ‘negation’. An animal can bark (sound language) or leave smell (smell language) to express the common psychological message of ‘territorial protection’. Roaring (sound language) and attacking (gesture) both create the same psychological feeling of horror.

Conversion of visual into sound

The theory suggests that all types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) are divisible in four parts in such a way that an individual part is never expressible, but the composition of the all four expresses a gesture. The theory explains these four parts in detail. All types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) are received by our sense organs and conveyed to the psychological platform. The psychological platform is structured in such a way that it can provide a separate place for a separate part (out of the four parts). As long as these parts are kept separated, these are inexpressible, but as soon as these are interacted, they form four expressible ingredients. Different types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) create different types of expressible ingredients, which are used to convey the psychological messaging. Vocal is an important type of signal, where these ingredients are represented by different phonemes.

The psychological platform is divisible in four chests (which are: bright star, dark star, dark hole, and bright hole) providing specific place for the specific inexpressible part (dissimilarity, vibrations, support, and vision) of gesture. All types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) are divided into four parts, and these parts are stored in their respective chests. In this way the dissimilarity or vibration or support or vision of all types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) are stored in a common chest. The data stored in the chests interact with each other and form expressible ingredients of gesture, composition of which creates the psychological image. In this way the perceived image is a combination of different types of gestures including visual, sound, and other types of gestures. It is to be kept in mind that the psychological platform provides places for different ingredients of the image along with their psychological ingredients, and hence our perceived image is made of psychological ingredients. In this way all types of signals (visuals, sounds, smells etc.) are perceived at the psychological platform, producing common psychological image.

Please note that we have not talked about human languages yet. We are talking about psychological language (animal language). The inter-conversion between sound and psychological feelings is governed by the natural code, which is alike in the same species. Hence the animals of the same species, even if they are from different countries, can have psychological interaction without learning any language.

In case of humans, all humans belong to the same species and hence inherit common relationship between visual, psychological feeling, and sound. They are capable of understanding the psychological message (like crying, laughing, and weeping etc.) of one another, without learning any language. In comparison to animals, humans have wider range of psychological feelings. These feelings are used in terms of intellectual meanings which form the root of a language.

Processing of signals

A human is a composition of physical, biological, psychological, and intellectual worlds. Every signal which is in the physical form passes through the following sequence:

  1. Observation in the form of biological impulses
  2. Perception in the form of psychological feelings.
  3. Understanding in the form of intellectual meanings.

In the inflow process (hearing, viewing, smelling) the signals pass through biological ↦ psychological ↦ and intellectual entity. At every step we have two sources of a signal. The first one comes from the object and the second comes from our pre-recorded memories. We observe composite (incoming signal and biological habit) biological impulses, we perceive composite (incoming signal and psychological nature) psychological feelings, and we interpret composite (incoming signal and intellectual knowledge) intellectual meanings. Every one of us has different ‘pre-recorded memories’ and hence infer different intellectual meanings for the same object. For an Englishman, the object may be /haʊs/ (house; expression of inside physical space), but for an Indian the same thing may be /ghǝrǝ/ (involvement in surrounded clarity).

In the outflow process (speaking, facial expressions, and leaving smells) the signals pass through intellectual entity ↦ psychological entity ↦ biological entity ↦ and physical entity. At every step we have two sources of signals. The first one comes from our wisdom and the second comes from our learned memories (habits; nature; knowledge). In cricket, two different batsmen play the same ball differently. Two different persons can suggest two different solutions for the same problem.

Transportation of signals

Every type of signal is made of two parts. One is ‘carrier’ and the second is ‘message’. While transporting a message from physical to biological format, the carrier (energy) is discarded. While transporting a message from biological to psychological format, the carrier (bio-electric impulse) is discarded. While transporting a message from psychological to intellectual format, the carrier (emotion) is discarded. Then we get the meaning of the signal. In case of outflow messaging, everything is just opposite. The intellectual message is converted into psychological expression by adding its carrier (emotion). It is further converted into biological expression by adding its carrier (bio-electric impulse). It is further converted into physical execution by adding its carrier (physical energy). And the final execution (speaking) is made out, which is called phoneme.

Unitary code of conversion

A biological body is made of different types of cells, and every cell is evolved and controlled by the same code named DNA. In the same way, the universe is made of different types of existences, and every existence is evolved and controlled by the same inbuilt unitary code. This code is called God, and the laws detailing of this code is called science. No entity can be made of unlimited laws. Every entity has a limited set of laws. In case of the same species (psychological entity), having the same set of laws, both the listener and the speaker understand the common psychological meaning for a specific expression.

The common code is a prototype of ‘existence’, and cannot be understood fully, but it can be decoded partly and the structure of existence (the ‘existence’ of any object) can be explained in a systematically divisible format. All parts of existence can be placed systematically in such a way that their composition constitutes a living entity. As far as phonosemantics is concerned, different parts of existence represent different emotions and represent different phonemes. And the phonemes can be explained on the basis of their placement in the structure of existence.

Structure of existence

All entities are made of four indeclinable chests. Capabilities of these chests define the genetic code (limited set of laws) of the entity. The theory suggests that each signal (physical; biological; psychological; intellectual) is disintegrated into four ingredients which are kept apart in the four chests. These ingredients are dissimilarities, vibrations, support, and vision, which are kept in four chests named (adopted): bright star, dark star, dark hole, and bright hole. The signal remains inexpressible till the four ingredients remain separated. As soon as the data from four sources combine with each other, the perception / recall takes place.

The theory suggests that the fifth chest named stimulator activates the interactions between inexpressible data of every two successive chests and forms expressible components of life in the entity. We get appearance (made of dissimilarities and vibrations), strength (made of vibrations and support), identity (made of support and vision), and clarity (made of vision and dissimilarities). Composition of these four creates flow in life with time. In this way we get five parts of life representing five groups of sounds. These groups are represented by dental, post alveolar, bilabial, velar, and retroflex sounds respectively. Every group can be divided as the future, the present, and the past, which can be represented by nasal, voiceless, and voiced sounds respectively. The present and the past can be represented as available and non-available represented by non-aspirated and aspirated sounds. In this way we get five sounds in a group and twenty five basic consonant sounds in total. We have many more consonants representing different aspects of life, but all are definable within the basic twenty five consonants.

Consonants are the ‘matter of meaning’ and the vowels are the ‘space of meaning’. The model for vowels is just parallel to the above model having five indeclinable chests (expansion visibility, expansion force, shrinkage force, shrinkage visibility, and holding space). Emptiness in the holding space activates the interaction between every two successive chests and forms five expressible spaces in the entity. These spaces represent: expansion /Ɩ/, force without visibility (back vowels), shrinkage /ɻ/, visibility without force (front vowels), and holding space (central vowels). All consonants (matter) are free to flow with any of vowel (space). And therefore any vowel can be joined with any consonant.

Difference in Languages

Every intellectual meaning is divisible into four ingredients. These ingredients are stored (memorized) in four indeclinable chests of intellectual brain. The four parts of the signal, incoming to us are mixed with the four preoccupied parts forming different set of parts. That results in a difference in perception. The object ‘air’ is the same everywhere, but its pronunciations are different. In England ‘air’ is called /eə(r)/ {involvement of indication}, in France ‘air’ is called /ɛʀ/ {involvement in outflow availability}, in India ‘air’ is called /həʋɑ/ {hidden entity of physical existence}. Therefore, we can say that for ‘air’ as an object, ‘indication’ is important in England, ‘flow’ is important in France, and ‘invisibility’ is important in India. Three languages define the same object in three different ways, but all follow phonosemantics. The difference in ‘importance’ comes from our preoccupied signals, which are made by difference in cultural trends, social values and environmental conditions of different countries. Opposite to it, the different objects, the ‘sun’ and ‘Sylvester Stallone’, both are called ‘star’. The common thing among them is the phonosemantic meaning, which is /stɑ r/ {involvement in expressible activation}.

Semantic values of IPA and Devanagari sounds

Referring to the structure of existence (for consonants), the perceived image is made of five groups named appearance, strength, identity, clarity, and flow represented by dental, post alveolar, bilabial, velar, and retroflex sounds respectively. Each group has five parts: available present, unavailable present, available past, unavailable past, and the future represented by non-aspirated unvoiced sounds, aspirated unvoiced sounds, non-aspirated voiced sounds, aspirated voiced sounds, and nasal sounds respectively. Now we can derive semantic values of all the twenty five basic sounds. For example, /k/ ‘velar non-aspirated unvoiced sound’ will be defined as “towards analysing (clarifying; explaining) the clarity (accuracy; feature; details) with open consciousness; yet to be analysed; question mark”. The structure explains the semantic values of all important consonants and vowels, for both IPA and Devanagari phonemes. It is to be noted that these semantic values do not represent the ‘meaning’ of sounds; they represent the psychological interpretations only, which are used in intellectual meaningfulness arbitrarily. This arbitrariness depends on the perception, which again depends on the preoccupied data in psychological and intellectual brain.

Semantic values of phonesthemes

The theory suggests that the pragmatic meanings of phonesthemes can be derived by pairing the semantic values of the concerned phonemes. The phonestheme /fl/ can be explained by pairing the semantic values of /f/ and /l/, which are explained in the detailed theory.

/f/ – towards acquiring existent with no condition of protection or bond; freely acquiring; unprotected; unrestricted; unapproved; fearful. It is a psychological feeling where the observer freely allows existent (characteristic, motion, or quantity) without applying any notion. Notion provides conditions of protection and restriction.

/l/ – expanded availability; expanded appearance; spreading; offered emotion; lack of concentration; full of departing movement;. The object is an unidentified emotion, spreading (expanding) all over and departing from the center. It is just like light departing and expanding from the sun.

We have joined these two semantic values, forming a specific psychological feeling of ‘unrestricted expanded availability’ which is used in the following words.

flap /fl æ p/ – /p/ approval of /æ/ visibility of /fl/ swing (unrestricted expanded availability),

flare /fl ɛə r/ – /r/ involvement in /ɛə/ visibly available existence of /fl/ spread (unrestricted expanded availability).

flee /fl i/ – /i/ exposition of /fl/ unrestricted (free; fast) expanded availability.

flick /fl ɪ k/ – /k/ alertness /ɪ/ towards /fl/ sudden (unrestricted) expanded availability.

In this way the same psychological feeing of /fl/ ‘unrestricted expanded availability’ has been used for different intellectual purposes.

Semantic values of words

The sound sequences used in a word (of any language) represent the sequence of psychological feelings. By using the semantic values of the phonemes used therein, we can explain the psychological image of the word. These psychological images can be interpreted in terms of different intellectual meanings. The pragmatic meaning is selected arbitrarily according to the conditions and purposes. For example:-


(1) Read right to left.

(2) Divide the word in a way that each component ends with a vowel. In case of not having any vowel at the end, additional /ǝ/ can be assumed. For example, /bæ skɪ t/ will be divided as /bæ/ + /skɪ/ + /tǝ/.

(3) While reading each component, start with the last phoneme, which is a vowel, in the form of an ‘adjective’. After that, read the first – second _ _ _ consonants in the form of ‘adjectives’, till the second last phoneme, which is to be read as a ‘noun’. For the component /skɪ/, we will read it as /ɪ/ (adverse) → /s/ (adjective) → /k/ (noun), which is “visibly expressible consciousness”.

(4) Different compositions of the word are connected with appropriate prepositions like ‘of’, ‘in’, ‘by’ ‘to’ etc.

English word /IPA pronunciation/ [selected intellectual meaning] Semantic value of the word {psychological image}.

tunnel /tʌnl/ [a long underground passage] /l/ expanded availability /n/ activation /tʌ/ evolved emptiness; {expanded availability of emptiness for evolved activation}.

nil /nɪl/ [nothing]/l/ expansion /nɪ/ visible emptiness; {expansion of visible emptiness}.

say /seɪ/ [to express in words; state; declare] /seɪ/ visibly indicated expression; {visibly indicated expression}.

star /stɑr/ [visible in the clear night sky] /r/ Involvement /stɑ/ expressible activated entity; {involvement in expressible activeness (activating entity)}.

flame /fleɪm/ [burning gas or vapour] /m/ submitted availability /eɪ/ visible indication /fl/ unrestricted expansion; {submitted availability of the visible indication of fire (unrestricted expansion); fire expands without any control}.

glow /gloʊ/ [emitted light heated to luminosity] /oʊ/ in the acceptable direction /gl/ clear emitted appearance {in the acceptable direction of light (clear emitted appearance)}.

hall /hɔl/ [a large room for public gatherings] /l/ expanded availability /hɔ/ acceptable availability of physical space; {expanded availability of acceptable availability of physical space}.

Objections of linguists

The theory suggests that the debate of arbitrariness and non-arbitrariness has not mush importance because the psychological representation of a sound is a natural process, and using that psychological feeling for a specific intellectual purpose is arbitrary, which depends on the circumstances of the group of people using it. We are discussing some of important objections raised by them.

Sound is a wave – Sound is a wave made of energy and messaging. Because of negligible quantum of energy, it can be inferred that nature has made it for the purpose of transmitting messages only. Sound existed on this earth before the evolution of human species. Nothing can exist without utility; hence this indirectly proves that sound exists on the earth with its utility of messaging and/or with semantic values.

Vocal gesture – There is an inbuilt sign language in all the animals (including human) provided by nature directly. Different types of ear-movements, eye-movements, and tail-movements explain different types of messaging. We cannot say that these gestures are arbitrary. Just like the other outflow expressions, vocalization is also a gesture. “Moving the tail in a specific manner” and “uttering a specific phoneme” are two forms of the same process. If other gestures have specific inbuilt meanings, vocalization must also have the same property.

Absence of convincing theory – Ohala said, “there has typically been no convincing theory offered as to why sound symbolism should exist in languages, nor for the most part has anyone offered a motivation for linkage between particular phonetic features and semantic features”. We have two objections against the statement. Firstly it is wrong to conclude of “no possibility of any theory” just because we are not aware of “any theory” at present. If ‘existence of phonosemantics’ is justified philosophically, we have to believe that there must be some theory still unknown to us. Secondly, we are presenting here the theory as required by Ohala.

Naming of objects – According to SOCRATES: “Well, if anyone could express the essence of each thing in letters and syllables, would he not express the nature of each thing?” Here, the word ‘essence’ is not clear. In case of phonosemantics, we have nothing to do with ‘existing essence’, we are concerned with ‘observing essence’, which differs from person to person. Secondly, he should have used the word ‘part nature’ in place of ‘nature’, because a person can observe a small part out of infinite properties possessed by the object. We never name an object on its basis of construction. We name it according to the psychologically perceived image. The construction may be a part of it.

Logical interpretation – A sound cannot be interpreted logically because it is based on psychological feelings and expressions. The ‘slow wags of the tail’ of dogs give the message of questioning about the environment around it. We cannot explain any connection between the body movement of animals and their specific meaning, but there is a connection. We cannot explain why gravitation has a connection with mass, but there is a connection. In the same way, no connection can be explained between the vocalized gesture (movement of tongue, phonemes) and its semantic representation. It is because all these meanings are allotted by nature.

Limitations of linguists – The story of phonosemantics starts with appearance, converted into biological impulses, converted into psychological perception and ends with phonemes. This is the limitation of phonosemantics. The approach of linguists starts with morphemes, forming words and sentences. Hence, they have been never involved in the philosophical and psychological interpretation of phonemes. They concentrate on the ‘meaning of a word’, not ‘the reason for the meaning’.

Historical aspect of linguistics – The inception of language development took place more than 70000 years ago. During the period, we have faced lots of changes in psychological, environmental, and social needs. Hence slight changes can be noticed in languages. We can explain the Grimm’s Law with the help of phonosemantics. Developments and changes were possible only till ‘writing’ did not come into existence. As of today we are “learning the languages”, not “evolving the languages”. That is why the word ‘chair’ seems to be arbitrary to us. It was not arbitrary when we were half animal and had a strong capability to inter-convert sound and psychological feeling.

Other aspects – This theory can explain morphophonology, non-human agonistic vocalization, patterns of intonation, tone in sound symbolism, and other concerned aspects relating to sounds.

Non-ending process ……

The theory is just an introduction of the subject. Nature has given us a great present. We should respect it and try to visualize it in deeper sense. The development of this subject may be difficult but not impossible. A time will come when we will be able to visualize every sound as a sound always says something.