nThe first clear reference to a class of ideophones
was in 1886, where
they are called ‘indeclinable verbal particles’ (McLaren 1886). Banfield (1915) whose
documentation for Nupe is
particularly rich, calls them ‘intensitive adverbs’. Doke
(1935) called them ‘a vivid representation of an idea in sound’.
nDetailed studies such as Kunene (1978)
on Southern Sotho
suggest that some Niger-Congo languages may have thousands of such ideophones
nOur understanding of the role they play
in natural language (as
opposed to elicited examples) is still very preliminary.