Neurobiology of Language -
Beep, click, sizzle! How does the brain process onomatopoeia?
In a simple experimental paradigm, participants listened to a large set of words that contained both onomatopoeic words (such as beep, click, slurp, and sizzle) and words with a largely arbitrary link between form and meaning (such as stare, throw, lift, and injure). Throughout the experiment, participants' brain activity was continuously recorded via a set of electrodes placed in a cap on their heads. As indicated by N400 amplitude difference between the two sets of words, the intuitive, iconic link between form and meaning in case of onomatopoeic words led to processing benefits compared to words with an arbitrary form-meaning mapping. In line with previous fMRI findings, this processing advantage might be due to activation of both lexical and environmental sound memory representations in the case of onomatopoeia.
These findings are consistent with the view that the neuronal architecture supporting language comprehension is not an encapsulated entity but interacts with the neuronal infrastructure engaged in auditory perception more broadly.
- Publication: Peeters, D. (2016). Processing consequences of onomatopoeic iconicity in spoken language comprehension. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1632-1647). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.