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Phonaesthetics (also spelled phonesthetics in North America) is the study of beauty and pleasantness associated with the sounds of certain words or parts of words. The term was first used, perhaps by J. R. R. Tolkien in this sense, during the mid-twentieth century, deriving from the Greek: φωνή phōnē, "voice-sound" plus Greek: αἰσθητική aisthētikē, "aesthetic". Speech sounds have many aesthetic qualities, some of which are subjectively regarded as euphonious (pleasing) or cacophonous (displeasing).
More broadly, phonaesthetics refers to the study of "phonaesthesia": sound symbolism. For instance, the British linguist David Crystal, who has compiled research on popular perceptions of beautiful-sounding English words, regards phonaesthetics as the "study of aesthetic properties of sounds, especially the sound symbolism attributable to individual sounds". An example is that English speakers tend to make an association of unpleasantness with the sound sl- in such words as sleazy, slime, slug, and slush, or an association of formless repetition with -tter in such words as chatter, glitter, flutter, and shatter.Phonaesthetics remains a budding and often subjective field of study, with no formally established definition; today, it mostly exists as a marginal branch of psychology, phonetics, or poetics..