Sound Mimesis in Various Cultures
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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 animals

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 also


  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


  • Birket-Smith, Kaj (1969). A kultúra ösvényei. Általános etnológia (in Hungarian). Budapest: Gondolat. Translation of the original: Birket-Smith, Kaj (1965). The Paths of Culture. A General Ethnology. Madison o Milwaukee: The University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Burch, Ernest S. (junior); Forman, Werner (1988). The Eskimos. Norman, Oklahoma 73018, USA: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2126-2.
  • Deschênes, Bruno (2002). "Inuit Throat-Singing". Musical Traditions. The Magazine for Traditional Music Throughout the World.
  • Diószegi, Vilmos (1960). Sámánok nyomában Szibéria földjén. Egy néprajzi kutatóút története (in Hungarian). Budapest: Magvet? Könyvkiadó. The book has been translated to English: Diószegi, Vilmos (1968). Tracing shamans in Siberia. The story of an ethnographical research expedition. Translated from Hungarian by Anita Rajkay Babó. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications.
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2005). Sámánok Eurázsiában (in Hungarian). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-8295-3. The title means "Shamans in Eurasia", the book is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish. Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian).
  • Hoppál, Mihály (2006). "Music of Shamanic Healing". In Gerhard Kilger. Macht Musik. Musik als Glück und Nutzen für das Leben. Köln: Wienand Verlag. ISBN 3-87909-865-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-17.
  • Lintrop, Aarno. "The Clean Tent Rite". Studies in Siberian shamanism and religions of the Finno-Ugric peoples.
  • Nattiez, Jean Jacques. "Inuit Games and Songs o Chants et Jeux des Inuit". Musiques & musiciens du monde o Musics & musicians of the world. Montreal: Research Group in Musical Semiotics, Faculty of Music, University of Montreal.. The songs are online available from the ethnopoetics website curated by Jerome Rothenberg.
  • Somby, Ánde (1995). "Joik and the theory of knowledge". Archived from the original on 2008-03-25.
  • Szomjas-Schiffert, György (1996). Lapp sámánok énekes hagyománya o Singing tradition of Lapp shamans (in Hungarian and English). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-6940-X.
  • Voigt, Vilmos (1966). A varázsdob és a látó asszonyok. Lapp népmesék. Népek meséi (in Hungarian). Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó. The title means: "The magic drum and the clairvoyant women. Sami folktales", the series means: "Tales of folks".

External links

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