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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.


Euphony is used for effects which are pleasant, rhythmical and harmonious.[1][2][3] An example of euphony is the poem Some Sweet Day.

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[example needed]. Important phonaesthetic devices of poetry are rhyme, assonance and alliteration. Closely related to euphony and cacophony is the concept of consonance and dissonance.[how?]


Cacophony consists of harsh, often discordant sounds. These sounds are often meaningless and jumbled together.[4]

Sub-phonematic euphony

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.

See also


  1. "CACOPHONY, Literary Terms and Definition by Carson-Newman University". Retrieved 2013-09-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Definition of Cacophony". Retrieved 2013-09-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Elizabeth, Mary; Podhaizer, Mary Elizabeth (2001). "Euphony". Painless Poetry. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 978-0-7641-1614-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Cacophony". Retrieved 26 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Ross Smith, Inside Language: Linguistic and Aesthetic Theory in Tolkien, Walking Tree Publishers (2007), ISBN 978-3-905703-06-1.