Bonnie McLean

Hej! I’m Bonnie. I’m a PhD student in Linguistics at Uppsala University in Sweden, and I love words that suit their meanings!

Want to know what I’m talking about? Think about words like perky, pesky, or fug. Words that are really satisfying to use.

In my research, I look at whether these kinds of words got their forms by accident, or if they are adapted to suit their meanings. I also look at the same question in reverse. That is, whether word meanings adapt to suit word forms.

This involves three challenges, (1) quantifying the relative ‘goodness of fit’ between words and their meanings, and (2) reconstructing the evolutionary histories of these words through time, and (3) simulating language change for things that are hard to reconstruct, like word meanings. As I’m interested in these questions as they relate to language in general, I work with data from a variety of languages. However, I am most at home with the Japonic language family.

This places my research within the fields of psycholinguistics, historical linguistics, language evolution, and linguistic typology.

Before starting my PhD, I completed an Honours Degree in Linguistics at The Australian National University, where I wrote my thesis on the phonological and semantic development of Japanese ideophones. Ideophones are an example par excellence of words that suit their meanings, and are satisfying to use. They are what got me interested in this topic in the first place!

When I’m not doing research, you can find me in the kitchen! I keep a log of good recipes I have tried on my other site.

And if you’re also interested in iconicity, make sure to check out IcoSem, our fantastic seminar group run by Ian Joo. We get together once a year to talk about all things iconicity, and for the rest of the year we have a facebook group which we use for general discussions. You can find slides and recordings of previous talks on our osf here. Welcome to join!