Phonaesthetics (from the Greek: φωνή phōnē, "voice-sound"; and αἰσθητική aisthētikē, "aesthetics") is the study of the inherent pleasantness (euphony) or unpleasantness (cacophony) of the sound of certain words, phrases, and sentences.
The closely related but different concept of phonaesthesia should be distinguished from this meaning. Phonaesthesia does not refer directly to aesthetic attributes of sound, but to phonetic elements that are inherently associated with a semantic meaning.
Some day Love shall claim his own
Some day Right ascend his throne,
Some day hidden Truth be known;
Some day—some sweet day.— Lewis J. Bates, the poem Some Sweet Day
Observe the symmetry of the lines and how the last syllable in the first three lines rhyme. Poetry is considered euphonic, as is well-crafted literary prose. Important phonaesthetic devices of poetry are rhyme, assonance and alliteration. Closely related to euphony and cacophony is the concept of consonance and dissonance.
In most languages, phonetic combinations which are difficult to pronounce will be adapted to allow more flowing speech, for reasons of ease of pronunciation rather than aesthetics. These adaptations will be sub-phonematic at first, but over several generations will lead to phonematically relevant sound changes. Most of the euphony or mellifluous design of a formal language is pure coincidence, yet phonaesthetics relations with meaning can arise to frequent use and may even become cliché.
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- "CACOPHONY, Literary Terms and Definition by Carson-Newman University". Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- "Definition of Cacophony". Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- Elizabeth, Mary; Podhaizer, Mary Elizabeth (2001). "Euphony". Painless Poetry. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 978-0-7641-1614-8.
- "Cacophony". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
- Ross Smith, Inside Language: Linguistic and Aesthetic Theory in Tolkien, Walking Tree Publishers (2007), ISBN 978-3-905703-06-1.