Sound mimesis in various cultures

The imitation of natural sounds in various cultures is a diverse phenomenon and can fill in various functions. In several instances, it is related to the belief system (yoiks of the Sami,[1][2][3][4] some other shamanic songs and rituals,[5][6][7] overtone singing of some cultures). It may serve also such practical goals as luring in the hunt;[8] or entertainment (katajjaqs of Inuit).[8][9]

Among some peoples of the Altai-Sayan region, including Tofa, the ability to mimic sounds of the environment includes hunting calls, and is present also in a traditional singing tradition preserved only by some old people.[10]



Shamanism in various cultures shows great diversity.[11] In some cultures, the music or songs related to shamanistic practice may mimic natural sounds, sometimes with onomatopoiea.[12]


The intention to mimic natural sounds is not necessarily linked to shamanistic beliefs or practice alone. Katajjaq (a "genre" of music of some Inuit groups) is a game played by women, for entertainment. In some instances, natural sounds (mostly those of animals, e.g. geese) are imitated.[8][9]

Luring animalsEdit

The kind of katajjaq mentioned above, which mimics the cry of geese, shows some similarities with the practice of the hunters to lure game.[8]

Some Eskimo peoples used a tool (shaped like a claw) to scratch the ice of the frozen sea in order to attract seals.[13][14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Szomjas-Schiffert 1996: 56, 76
  2. ^ Szomjas-Schiffert 1996: 64
  3. ^ Somby 1995 Archived 2008-03-25 at
  4. ^ Szomjas-Schiffert 1996: 74
  5. ^ Diószegi 1960: 203
  6. ^ Hoppál 2005: 92
  7. ^ Lintrop
  8. ^ a b c d Nattiez: 5
  9. ^ a b Deschênes 2002
  10. ^ "Song ond sound mimesis". Foundation for Endangered Languages.
  11. ^ Hoppál 2005: 15
  12. ^ Hoppál 2006: 143 Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Burch & Forman 1988: 56–57
  14. ^ Birket-Smith 1969: 127


External linksEdit