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英语修辞与写作·10.3 Onomatopoeia





10.3 Onomatopoeia

10.3A Onomatopoeia的含义与形式

1) Onomatopoeia译作“拟声法”,是模拟声音的一种构词方法(创造拟声词,参见5.2A),又是一种生动逼真的修辞手段。试比较:

a) The stream flows through the woods. b) The stream is murmuring through the woods.

Dasi started laughing. Dasi started giggling.

The door was pushed open. The door crashed open.

Heavy rain drops fell on the tent. Heavy rain drops began pitter-pattering on the tent.


2) 拟声法在汉语中也很常见,汉语中也有大量的拟声词,例如上述B组各句都能在汉语中同样以拟声法表示:





3) 除了运用拟声词这一直接的基本形式外,还可巧妙地利用音韵的特殊组合取得某种拟声效果,达到拟声修辞目的(详见10.3B3)。

10.3B Onomatopoeia的使用

1) 恰当地运用拟声词是拟声法的基本技巧。拟声词种类繁多,有的模拟人的声音,有的模拟动物的叫声,还有很多是模拟各种客观事物的声响。例如:



2) 通过拟声的连串使用,或者以拟声词为核心,伴以谐音、半谐音词,造成一种声音回响,从而达到扩大和增强拟声效果的目的。例如:

Tires booped and whoosed, the fenders queeled and graked, the steering wheel rose up like a spectre and disappeared in the direction of Franklin Avenue with a melancholy whistling sound, bolts and gadgets flew like sparks from a Catherine wheel.

(James Thurder)


The traffic has just started, not yet a roar and a stink. One car at a time goes by, the tires humming almost like the sound of a brook a half mile down in the crease of a mountain I know — a sound that carries not because it is loud but because everything else is still.

(John Ciardi)


3) 不使用拟声词,而是巧妙地利用音素组合创造所需要的音响效果。一般说来,/s/表示柔和的音响,如(蛇、沸水等的)嘶嘶声;/l/表示流畅、欢快的音响,如(小溪的)流水声等;/m/,/n/等表示郁闷、冗长的音响;/k/,/g/表示急促、尖锐的嗓音,等。元音也一样,长元音、双元音和三元音柔和、婉转,短元音急促、粗硬,等等。


A) ... She looked at me with intensity. “It is the gift of the great,” she went on, and the sound of her low voice seemed to have the accompaniment of all other sounds, full of mystery, desolation, and sorrow, I have ever heard — the ripple of the river, the soughing of the trees swayed by the wind, the murmurs of the crowds, the faint ring of incomprehensible words cried from afar, the whisper of a voice speaking from beyond the threshold of an eternal darkness. “But you have heard him! You know!” she cried.

(Joseph Conrad)

B) Ursula and Anton Skrebensky walked along the ridge of the canal between. The berries on the hedges were crimson and bright red, above the leaves. The glow of evening and the wheeling of the solitary peewit and the faint cry of the birds came to meet the shuffling noise of the pits, the dark, fuming stress of the town opposite, and the two walked the blue strip of water-way, the ribbon of sky between.

(D. H. Lawrence)

练习十 (Exercise Ten)

I. Preview Questions:

1. Personification is in essence a kind of comparison, isn't it?

2. Do you know that the word zoosemy is derived from zoosemiotics, a word created by Thomas A. Sebeok in the year of 1965?

3. Can you cite an example to indicate how an English poet used personification in his or her poetry?

4. What effect can the figure of personification achieve in describing something abstract?

5. What other figures you have learned are similar to zoosemy?

6. Can you give examples to indicate how zoosemy is used to express certain favorable sense or unfavorable sense?

7. Can you tell some words that are formed like “cuckoo” to refer to a bird or animal or something that make that sound?

8. What other devices can you use to achieve the effect of onomatopoeia without using onomatopoeic words?

II. Identify the figures used in each of the following sentences:

1. “Well, the sight of me is good for sore eyes, as the Scotish say,” replied Steerforth, “and so is the sight of you, Daisy, in full bloom.”


2. The handsome houses on the street to the college were not fully awake, but they looked very friendly.

(Lionel Trilling)

3. Rent a toot or buy a tweet, boom, zing, twant, tinkle, hum or plink.

(Lionel Trilling)

4. Ignominy, Want, Despair and Madness have, collectively or separately, been the attendants of my career.


5. Freedom blushed for shame.

Justice lamented the deed.

King of the jungle, the lion strode across the plain.

How rarely Reason guides the stubborn choice.

(Samual Johnson)

6. Wherefore, Bees of England, forge

Many a weapon, chain, and scourge

That these stingless drones may spoil

The forced produce of your toil?

(P. B. Shelley)

7. “Hold him by the nose, dearie, then he'll splutter and wake up.”


8. ... The place presents itself as pathetic fallacy: the sky “broods,” the stones “weep,” a constant seepage of water weighting the ferns and moss. The foliage is thick and slick with moisture. The only sound is a steady buzz, I believe of cicadas.

(Joan Didion)

III. Read the following passages and the questions, and then determine whether each answer in brackets is true (T) or false (F).

Personification means referring to inanimate things or abstractions as if they were human. Personification is really a special kind of metaphor. At its simplest it consists of using personal pronouns for objects, as when sailors speak of their ship as “she”.

Personification can be more subtle. Thus Washington Irving personifies the social changes in a London neighborhood:

As London increased, however, rank and fashion rolled off to the west, and trade, creeping on at their heels took possession of their deserted abodes.

“Rank” and “fashion” are abstractions personifying aristocratic Londoners, “trade” an abstraction signifying the merchant class. These abstractions behave in the manner of the beings they personify, “rolling off” elegantly (in carriages) and “creeping” in with the deference of inferiors.

The purpose of personification — like that of metaphor generally — is to explain, to expand, to vivify. The following figure implies, in only eight words, a great deal about the relationship between ambition and greed:

Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked.

Personification can help one make his point with extraordinary emphasis, which has the additional advantage of bringing a topic into a human and social relationship to the reader. Skillfully employed, personification is one of the most dramatic of all figures of speech.

Opposite to personification is zoosemy in which names of animals are metaphorically used to denote human qualities, as in “You're shedding crocodile tears”, which means “You're shedding insincere tears”.

Onomatopoeic words are those that are formed by directly imitating sounds, including those produced by metals (clang, clank, clash, ding-dong, jangle, tick-tack, ting, tinkle, etc.), those produced by water or other liquids (bubble, drip-drop, sizz, sizzle, splash, splish-splosh, etc.), those produced by various animals (coo, hiss, moo, miao, screech, etc.), those produced by human beings (chatter, chuckle, grumble, grunt, gurgle, mumble, murmur, shriek, smack, sneeze, snigger, snort, sputter, whisper, whoop, etc.), etc.


1. What figure of speech is it when sailors call their ship “she”?


2. What does the word “trade” refer to in Washington Irving's description of London?

(The merchant class.)

3. Is it advisable to use “rolling off” for “trade” and “creeping” for “rank and fashion”?

(Yes, it is.)

4. What's the general purpose of using personification?

(To explain, to expand and to vivify.)

5. What is the advantage of using personification?

(It can bring a topic into a human and social relationship to the reader, and make one's speech or writing more vivid, more impressive, and less effective.)

6. Can you cite an example of zoosemy?

(Yes. For example, “The bad guy is shedding crocodile tears.”)

7. How are onomatopoeic words formed?

(They are formed by directly imitating sounds.)

8. Is there anything similar in personification and zoosemy?

(No, but they are in essence metaphors.)

IV. Tell what kind of figurative language you find in each of the following, and tell if they are properly used:

1. It was a long head, bony, tight of skin, and set on a neck as stringy and muscular as a celery stalk.


2. He thought he had a key to the problem, but he found he did not get to the heart of it.

(M. E. Adelstein)

3. Her hands trembled among the hooks and eyes, and her eyes had a feverish look, and her hair swirled crisp and crackling under the comb.

(W. Faulkner)

4. You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think that I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.


5. A little while later, the ice accepted the moonlight. The tip of the moon's upper limb was actually shining through miles and miles of piled-up ice! The light rays glittered, splintered, and slithered at odd angles, flashing right across the horizon. Then, slowly, the moon showed herself, her light shining horizontally over the cluttered masses of ice, casting long shadows.

(Tristan Jones)

6. The rangy dog darted from between the wheels and ran ahead. Instantly two ranch shepherds flew out at him. Then all three stopped and with stiff quivering tails, with taut straight legs, with ambassadorial dignity, they slowly circled, sniffing daintily.

(J. Steinbeck)

7. Oak sighed a deep honest sigh — none the less so in that, being like the sigh of a pine plantation, it was rather noticeable as a disturbance of the atmosphere.

(T. Hardy)

8. And now, if I had time and room to describe the state of men's fair, in the country through which I have passed, I should show, that the people at Westminster would have known how to turn paradise itself into hell.


9. The crowd began to hiss and boo him for his unsportsmanlike conduct, but he sat unmoved. Another great outburst of applause was Danny's as he walked back across the ring. When Danny stirred, there were ohs! and ahs! of delight.

(J. London)


Ⅱ. 1. zoosemy; 2. personification; 3. onomatopoeia; 4. personification; 5. personification; 6. zoosemy; 7. onomatopoeia; 8. personification

Ⅲ. 1. T 2. T 3. F 4. T 5. F 6. T 7. T 8. F

Ⅳ. 1. This is from The Grape of Wrath by Steinbeck, in which the author describes the bony man's neck as a celery stalk — a figure of zoosemy.

2. This is an example of mixed metaphor cited by the author. In the first clause, the problem is treated like a lock; in the second, like a human being.

3. Here is a vivid description by William Faulkner, in which small but colorful verbs are used, though no figure of speech can be recognized as have been treated in the present book of English Rhetoric & Writing .

4. In this passage by Shakespeare, figures like synecdoche and zoosemy can be found.

5. Figures of speech like personification and the figures discussed in Chapter 17 are used in this passage by Tristan Jones, in which cumulative sentence pattern can be found as well. 6. While personification can be found in this passage by J. Steinbeck, transitional words (See 19.2C) used here are also prominent.

7. In this passage of T. Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd , the author uses zoosemy as in the phrase “like the sigh of a pine plantation”.

8. Cobbett uses Westminster to refer to the British Council situated in that district of London; therefore, metonymy is recognized as referring to an institution by its location.

9. Onomatopoeia is used here by Jack London, where the four words can be divided into two types which indicate striking contrast.


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