Clear blue, Cool Blue: how vowels work...

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Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
It is very clear that Clear Blue contains the typical contrast and Cool Blue a parallelism, but is there anyone who could refer to sites where background information is given on how such sound symbolism works (vowels, but also consonants).

I studied some phonetics long time ago, know some essentials like the vowel scheme, the key terms, but I'd love to read about how certain vowels are used in (predictable) combinations and why that has some effect.
- It is clear with /[a], I think: the biggest contrast, the most closed (...) versus the most open vowel. Which explains the sound of donkeys braying.
- how come / has some effect??? Does it have to do with the (non-)rounding of the lips?

So I'd like to find illustrations with explanations and more general reference sites.
(a) I have just come across a site on animal noises (like the donkey's sound), and that one is not uninteresting but it ought to be "a tad more techical"... It might be more interesting to compare animal noises to see what they have in common and what they focus on separately...
(b) Loose stories are welcome to if accompanied by some explanation.
  • Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    I'm a lit suspicious, @ThomasK that this thread has no responses as yet as we are not sure what exactly you are asking. I, for one, am happy to put my hand up to accept that position from my own point of view.

    I'd be guessing if I could give you an answer of where schwa exists in my own language - there is a fairly regular pattern to this, and you must also remember that schwa can be a stressed vowel or part of syllable in Cymraeg/Welsh, too. This information I'd happily share, but reserve the right to seek more clarity from you first.

    Best wishes,


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks a lor for your reaction, Welsh Sion. So it has happened again... Let me try again...

    0. Basic question is: how does sound symbolism work? I suppose that is fairly general, but not wrong...
    I could also ask: what kind of sound mechanisms do you know and how do they work? OR how come they have so much impact?
    Spme examples of sound mechanisms: alliteration (with/out variation), reduplication, affricates (is ts or ch stronger/more impactful than t in some respect?)

    What I then tried to is to give an example, but something went wrong with the symbols, and I suddenly notice that the phonetic brackets containing a vowel are sometimes considered as IT/meta information, not linguistic...
    1. I thought I knew what the rationale was "behind" all kinds of i/a combinations like tit for tat, Wischiwaschi (German), dit en dat/ this and that and the donkey braying sound: both sounds are extremes, very closed vs. very open.
    2. However I do not know what can be so charming/impactful about u/u as in ClearBlue, I thought it might have to do with rounding. Now I realize this is not sound symbolism, but only sound effect.
    3. I also wondered abouthe the double sound combination in Coolblue, or are the vowels not perfectly the same? In any case what phonetic phenomenon can account for the choice of this word combination?

    Does that help? If it does I could try to explain the other questions as well.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I happen to come across an interesting example, non-commercial (not about brand names), but about a boy's name in Tonio by FTh Van der Heijden. It is "a requiem memoir" (subtitle of the Engels version) about the loss of his only son an the first chapter is devoted to his name, as he has been shouting it time and again for months: Tooooo-niiiii-ooooo. Long sounds, varying from deep to shrill to deep again, when shouting it like that. (Cf. infra)

    He also refers to Nabokov's 'Lolita', which has a different structure: deep, from the back, then shrill, and clearer, more frontal/palatal, I suppose... Nabokov tastes, or savours, the name at the start of the novel, AFTh says : "The tip of the tongue goes down three stages down the palatum and ticks at the count of three against the teeth." (I do not have the original lines...) He refers to the vowels first, including, I suppose, the l being a liquida, a fluid sound (semivowel?) and then to the t (labiodental)."

    Tonio begins - so AFTh writes, with that t sound and then "unleashes"/abandons/gives away the vowel o in its fullness to the air" (clumsy translation of mine, I am afraid), "followed by a higher nasal slightly screeching sound, on ly a short interruption of the long stretched ooo, that can last forever". A little further he describes the name as "something like a wave rolling, breaking, rolling on, A name with a negation overcome."

    The magic of sound, indescribable and yet powerful. ONe can feel it but not really grasp it, but the impact is there, though probably varying along the person's taste or sensitivy...
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