Neurobiology of Language -
Review Paper: Iconicity in the lab
We've collected as much research as we could find, and distilled it into the following main points:
- That large vowels (e.g. a, o) are associated with large things and slow things and dark things and heavy things.
- That small vowels (e.g. i, e) are associated with small things and fast things and bright things and light things.
- That voiced consonants (e.g. b, g) have the same kind of associations as large vowels.
- That voiceless consonants (e.g. p, k) have the same kind of associations as small vowels.
- That this is probably due to a combination of acoustic properties (i.e. the way something sounds when you hear it) and articulatory properties (i.e. the way something feels when you say it).
- That these cross-modal associations mean people can guess the meanings of sound-symbolic words in languages that they don't know.
- That these cross-modal associations mean children and adults learn sound-symbolic words more easily.
- That these cross-modal associations in sound-symbolic words elicit either different brain processes from regular words and/or stronger versions of the same brain processes as regular words.
- That it's more informative to investigate these cross-modal associations using real sound-symbolic words from real languages than using non-words from made-up languages.
- That it's more informative to investigate these cross-modal associations using complicated experiment tasks than asking participants to choose between two options.
- That it's not accurate to look at arbitrariness and iconicity are two competitors in a zero-sum language game, even if it does make our work seem more important.
Click for the full paper, or here for the related blog post.