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How Do I Recognize Sentences with Onomatopoeia?

The onomatopoeia "woof," or the sound a dog makes, varies throughout the world.
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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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The best way to recognize sentences with onomatopoeia is to understand exactly what an onomatopoeia is — a word that imitates a characteristic sound. At times, the sentence structure can provide context for the use of onomatopoeia. If an individual still cannot determine whether or not a sentence contains the literary device, he can try reading it aloud; if one of the words is similar to a recognizable sound effect, it is likely that the word is an onomatopoeia. This can be difficult to do at times, however, since some words can be so commonly-used that they do not initially register as onomatopoeia. In cases like these, individuals can refer to the word's etymology to determine its nature.

Sentences with onomatopoeia are often structured in a way that makes the onomatopoeia obvious. One common use for the literary device is to put "with a" before the entire phrase used to describe an action or occurrence, as in "The door slammed with a bang." In this example, the onomatopoeia is "bang," referring to the loud burst of sound caused by a slamming door. Onomatopoeia can also be used to modify the object from which the sound is coming, such as "buzzing bee" or "wheezing old man".

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Another way to recognize sentences with onomatopoeia is read the words out loud. Onomatopoeia are, in essence, spoken sound effects transliterated into a readable format; reading the words aloud often has the desired effect of replicating the intended sound. The word "whoosh" is a prime example of this — when read aloud, the word sounds like the rushing of air.

Some individuals might have difficulty identifying sentences with onomatopoeia because the words are embedded in everyday language. It is not uncommon, for example, for people to regard "click" as a word of its own accord rather than as an onomatopoeia. In many cases, the words take their own separate meanings. One such word is "rattle," which could be defined as the sound of small objects shaking within a container, or as a toy or object created to reproduce that sound.

This difficulty is also evident when relaying information across different languages. Some individuals might find it hard to identify sentences with onomatopoeia if the sounds used are culturally tied. One example of this can be found in the onomatopoeia for a dog's bark — in American English, the word is commonly seen in its onomatopoeia form as "arf," while the Filipino language usually uses the word "aw," pronounced like "ow," to convey the same thing. In these cases, it is often helpful to refer to the word's origins to determine whether or not it is an onomatopoeia.

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