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Copyright (c) 2021 Stephanie S. Shih, Deniz Rudin
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Recent work has argued that sound symbolism plays a much larger part in language than previously believed, given the assumption of the arbitrariness of the sign. A slate of recent papers on Pokémonastics, for example, has found sound symbolic associations to be rampant in Pokémon names cross-linguistically. In this paper, we explore a real-world dataset that parallels Pokémon, in which human players similarly have physical attributes of weight, height, and power: Major League Baseball. We investigated phonological correlations between baseball player statistics and their given first names, chosen baseball-official first names,
and baseball nicknames. We found numerous sound symbolic associations in player-chosen names and nicknames, where conscious design may play a role in choosing a name that communicates an attribute. These associations were often mediated by language-specific hypocoristic formation processes. We conclude that sound symbolism occurs in real-world naming practices, but only when names are chosen in cognizance of the relevant attributes.
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