Sound (Symbolic) Patterns in Pokemon Names: Focusing on Voiced Obstruents and Mora Counts
Shigeto Kawahara, Atsushi Noto, Gakuji Kumagai
September 2017

This paper presents a case study of sound symbolism, cases in which certain sounds tend to be associated with particular meanings. We use the corpus of all Pokemon names available as of October 2016. We tested the effects of voiced obstruents, mora counts, and vowel quality on Pokemon characters' size, weight, strength parameters, and evolution levels. We found that the number of voiced obstruents in Pokemon names correlates positively with size, weight, evolution levels, and general strength parameters, except for speed. We argue that this result is compatible with the Frequency Code Hypothesis. The number of moras in Pokemon names correlates positively with size, weight, evolution levels and all strength parameters. Vowel height is also shown to have an influence on size and weight---Pokemon characters with initial high vowels tend to be smaller and lighter, although the effect size is not very large. Not only does this paper offer a new case study of sound symbolism, it provides evidence that sound symbolism is at work when naming proper nouns. In general, the materials provided in this paper are useful for undergraduate education in linguistics, phonetics and psychology to attract students' interests, as Pokemon is very popular among current students.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003196
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Phonetica 75. A full open access version of the article is available at,
keywords: sound symbolism, japanese, phonetics, voiced obstruents, mora counts, pokemon, phonology
previous versions: v2 [June 2017]
v1 [November 2016]
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