My intuition is that onomatopoeia is quite rare and that the letters and sounds of most words are meaningless (e.g. if "chicken" and "fish" were switched all along, no one would think "That word doesn't sound like it tastes").

But I want to know the frequency of onomatopoeic words (or is that a spectrum rather than binary?) both (1) as a proportion of a reference vocabulary, such as a dictionary (e.g. "10% of all words are onomatopoeic"), and (2) as a proportion in spoken or written usage.

Does such a corpus annotated with the property "this word is onomatopoeic" exist and what are those frequencies (if they are public I can calculate that myself also)?

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    You appear to have the wrong idea of what onomatopoeia is; the fact that language is sound is what allows onomatopoeia -- i.e, sounds that refer recursively to sounds, by imitation. Onomatopoeia is not the same thing as sound symbolism, which is what you appear to be asking about. Sound symbolism is not recursive or imitative, but rather associates certain specific sounds with certain meanings, like the KL- words in English. – jlawler Aug 19 '16 at 16:16
  • I think Konrad does understand onomatopoeia as imitation. 'Fish' may have some relation to 'splash', and 'chick' and 'cluck' are probably imitations of poultry sounds. – amI Aug 19 '16 at 18:49
  • How common is onomatopoiea in your native language? By frequency do you mean number of lexical entries in a dictionary or number of tokens in a corpus? You can probably do this yourself by getting hold of the OED which may (or may not) have onomatopoia as a tag on each word, and then count, but then also count those instance in a corpus. Since ono... (gah that word is too long) is fairly rare, I doubt you'd have to worry about ambiguity for the same uttereance for non-ono uses. But that's just a guess. – Mitch Aug 29 '16 at 1:26

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