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Investigating the Relationship between Sound Shape and Meaning in Poetry

Emotions are communicated and expressed in, as well as by, poetry. The dissertation project tries to demonstrate and classify the potential phonetic expression of emotions in poems.

Project No. G 404

Maria Kraxenberger

Is the emotional expression of a poem only determined by its content or if and how can the sound shape also be seen as an influencing factor? What makes us feel or know that a poem is a sad or a happy one and can you tell the difference even if you don’t understand the language it is written in?

This dissertation project aims to gain new insights into the potential relationship between sound shape and the emotional content of the text. I will also investigate if phonetic iconicity can be seen as a cross language phenomenon. Furthermore, the project focuses on developing suitable criteria and instruments for the literary analysis of emotions in texts.

There are three useful ways to approach the semantics of the text: an analysis of the sound shape, an accompanying textual analysis and empirical studies. The goal of this interdisciplinary approach is, in addition to the comparison of an array of different methods, to define criteria for describing an at least partially subjective phenomenon on a highly objective level.


Comparative literature


Prof. Dr. Winfried Menninghaus

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Donat