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Phonaesthetics (from the Greek: φωνή phōnē, "voice-sound"; and αἰσθητική}} aisthētikē, "aesthetics") is a branch of phonetics concerned with "the possible connection between sound sequences and meaning", according to Raymond Hickey.[1] Linguist David Crystal defines phonaesthetics as "a term sometimes used in linguistics to refer to the study of the aesthetic properties of sound".[2] According to Crystal:

Examples include the implication of smallness in the close vowels of such words as teeny weeny, and the unpleasant associations of the consonant cluster sl- in such words as slime, slug, and slush.[3]

The application of said aesthetic properties of sound, phonaesthetics, and their meaning in media has yet to be studied extensively. That being said, the study of sound aesthetics is a burgeoning field waiting to be studied by phonaestheticians everywhere.[citation needed]

Sound has many qualitative aspects, some of which are euphony and cacophony.

The Phonaesthetician's Tool Belt[edit]

Among the many aspects of aesthetic audio are euphony and cacophony, all powerful tools in the Phonaesthetician's tool belt.


Euphony is used for effects which are pleasant, rhythmical and harmonious.[4][5][6] An example of euphony is the poem Some Sweet Day.

Some day Love shall claim his own
Some day Right ascend his throne,
Some day hidden Truth be known;
Some day—some sweet day.

— "Some Sweet Day", Lewis J. Bates


Cacophony consists of harsh, often discordant sounds. These sounds are often meaningless and jumbled together.[7] A discordant series of harsh, unpleasant sounds helps to convey disorder. This is often furthered by the combined effect of the meaning and the difficulty of pronunciation. For example:

My stick fingers click with a snicker
And, chuckling, they knuckle the keys;
Light-footed, my steel feelers flicker
And pluck from these keys melodies.

— "Player Piano", John Updike[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hickey, Raymond (2013). A Dictionary of Varieties of English. John Wiley & Sons. p. 514. ISBN 111858404X. 
  2. ^ Crystal, David (2011). Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. John Wiley & Sons. p. 364. ISBN 9781444356755. 
  3. ^ Crystal, David (2001). A Dictionary of Language. University of Chicago Press. p. 260. ISBN 9780226122038. 
  4. ^ "CACOPHONY, Literary Terms and Definition by Carson-Newman University". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  5. ^ "Definition of Cacophony". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  6. ^ Elizabeth, Mary; Podhaizer, Mary Elizabeth (2001). "Euphony". Painless Poetry. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 978-0-7641-1614-8. 
  7. ^ "Cacophony". Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Poetic Devices" (PDF). Retrieved 12 April 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ross Smith, Inside Language: Linguistic and Aesthetic Theory in Tolkien, Walking Tree Publishers (2007), ISBN 978-3-905703-06-1.