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 Phonaesthetician everywhere.

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

The Phonaesthetician's Tool Belt

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


  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

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