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Review Paper: Iconicity in the lab

This article is a review paper about experimental research on sound-symbolism from the last few years. The paper is a nice one-stop shop for almost everything you've ever wanted to know about sound-symbolism research but were too afraid to ask!
Review Paper: Iconicity in the lab

We've collected as much research as we could find, and distilled it into the following main points:

  1. That large vowels (e.g. a, o) are associated with large things and slow things and dark things and heavy things.
  2. That small vowels (e.g. i, e) are associated with small things and fast things and bright things and light things.
  3. That voiced consonants (e.g. b, g) have the same kind of associations as large vowels.
  4. That voiceless consonants (e.g. p, k) have the same kind of associations as small vowels.
  5. 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).
  6. That these cross-modal associations mean people can guess the meanings of sound-symbolic words in languages that they don't know.
  7. That these cross-modal associations mean children and adults learn sound-symbolic words more easily.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. That it's more informative to investigate these cross-modal associations using complicated experiment tasks than asking participants to choose between two options.
  11. 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 here for the full paper, or here for the related blog post.


Neurobiology of Language

What is the neurobiological infrastructure for the uniquely human capacity for language? The focus of the Neurobiology of Language Department is on the study of language production, language comprehension, and language acquisition from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Read more...

Director: Peter Hagoort

Secretary: Carolin Lorenz

 

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