Sound Symbolism in The Disputation between Bird and Fish 102-109

Justin Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
232 Downloads (Pure)


This paper investigates the poetic structure of a passage from The Disputation between Bird and Fish (lines 102-109). The unusual thing about this passage is that it is the only place within the disputation literature where physical violence (and death) takes the place of the vcrbal combat that typically occurs in the disputations. Although this passage is characterized by the total absence of speech, various words with the phonological form /sik/ act as a form of sound symbolism (phonological iconism) that points to the decisive moment in the passage: the fish's attack on the bird's nest, which results in the destruction of the bird's nest and its young. These eight lines (102-109) can be juxtaposed to the eight line sequence that immediately follows (lines 110-1] 7), which are also non-verbal, but whose poetics are organized along entirely different lines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
JournalAltorientalische Forschungen
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010


  • sound symbolism
  • literary disputations
  • Sumerian literature


Dive into the research topics of 'Sound Symbolism in The Disputation between Bird and Fish 102-109'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this