Sinitic ideophones

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I have always felt that binoms are a key to studying early vernacular Sinitic.  (See "Selected readings" below for useful references on this topic.)  Now we have a valuable research tool for access to and analysis of premodern Sinitic binoms, which fall within the purview of the tabulated listings introduced here:

The Chinese Ideophone Database (CHIDEOD)
L’ ensemble de données des idéophones chinois (CHIDEOD)

In: Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale (Brill)

Authors: Thomas VAN HOEY and Arthur Lewis THOMPSON

Online Publication Date:  26 Oct 2020


This article introduces the Chinese Ideophone Database (CHIDEOD), an open-source dataset, which collects 4948 unique onomatopoeia and ideophones (mimetics, expressives) of Mandarin, as well as Middle Chinese and Old Chinese. These are analyzed according to a wide range of variables, e.g., description, frequency. Apart from an overview of these variables, we provide a tutorial that shows how the database can be accessed in different formats (.rds, .xlsx, .csv, R package and online app interface), and how the database can be used to explore skewed tonal distribution across Mandarin ideophones. Since CHIDEOD is a data repository, potential future research applications are discussed.

Now that we have this marvelous database of ideophones, I invite Language Log readers to browse through CHIDEOD and offer suggestions on how we may use it for productive research.

A final note: I would not want to waste this opportunity to pay tribute to one of my favorite, old Chinese tomes, Cí tōng 辭通 (Comprehensive Phrases; 1934), which provides copious examples of polysyllabic words going back to the classical period.  Between the bookends of CHIDEOD and Cí tōng 辭通, researchers are poised to make breakthrough discoveries concerning the evolution of vernacular Sinitic languages.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Daniele Caccin]

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Van Hoey said,

    May 18, 2022 @ 1:49 am

    Thanks for featuring our database. I also invite language log readers for inquiries, technical issues, contributions or future collaborations in Sinitic ideophones.

    You can access CHIDEOD through a number of ways, my own personal favorites are the raw datasets (, the online app ( or the R package (


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