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Sound and Sense in a Language’s Bauplan

The levels of patterning in language consist of (1) system, i. e., everything functional that is productive in a language, including usage that exists in potentia; (2) norms, i. e., usage that is historically realized and codified in a given speech community; and (3) type, i. e., the specific Bauplan or underlying design of a language.

Within the compass of the third level, namely Bauplan, falls a language’s predilection for collocational structure, as in proverbs and paronomasia generally. One language’s meat can be another’s poison. Thus, a typical alliterative sequence of English like neither kith nor kin is utterly alien to Japanese, where in a proverb like Horeta me ni wa abata mo ekubo れたには痘痕 ‘to a lover’s eyes even a pockmark is a dimple’ (= “Love is blind.”), sound offers no support to sense.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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