The shape of words in the brain

Kovic, Vanja and Plunkett, Kim and Westermann, Gert (2010) The shape of words in the brain. Cognition, 114 (1). pp. 19-28. ISSN 0010-0277

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The principle of arbitrariness in language assumes that there is no intrinsic relationship between linguistic signs and their referents. However, a growing body of sound-symbolism research suggests the existence of some naturally-biased mappings between phonological properties of labels and perceptual properties of their referents (Maurer, Pathman, & Mondloch, 2006). We present new behavioural and neurophysiological evidence for the psychological reality of sound-symbolism. In a categorisation task that captures the processes involved in natural language interpretation, participants were faster to identify novel objects when label-object mappings were sound-symbolic than when they were not. Moreover, early negative EEG-waveforms indicated a sensitivity to sound-symbolic label-object associations (within 200 ms of object presentation), highlighting the non-arbitrary relation between the objects and the labels used to name them. This sensitivity to sound-symbolic label-object associations may reflect a more general process of auditory-visual feature integration where properties of auditory stimuli facilitate a mapping to specific visual features. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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08 Nov 2011 12:13
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21 Nov 2022 21:49