Cross-sensory correspondences in language : Vowel sounds can symbolise the felt heaviness of objects

Walker, Peter and Regina Parameswaran, Caroline (2019) Cross-sensory correspondences in language : Vowel sounds can symbolise the felt heaviness of objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45 (2). pp. 246-252. ISSN 0278-7393

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In sound symbolism, a word's sound induces expectations about the nature of a salient aspect of the word's referent. Walker (2016a) proposed that cross-sensory correspondences can be the source of these expectations and the present study assessed three implications flowing from this proposal. First, sound symbolism will embrace a wide range of referent features, including heaviness. Second, any feature of a word's sound able to symbolise one aspect of the word's referent will also be able to symbolise corresponding aspects of the referent (e.g., a sound feature symbolising visual pointiness will also symbolise lightness in weight). Third, sound symbolism will be independent of the sensory modality through which a word's referent is encoded (e.g., whether heaviness is felt or seen). Adults judged which of two contrasting novel words was most appropriate as a name for the heavier or lighter of two otherwise identical hidden novel objects they were holding in their hands. The alternative words contrasted in their vowels and/or consonants, one or both of which were known to symbolise visual pointiness. Though the plosive or continuant nature of the consonants did not influence the judged appropriateness of a word to symbolise the heaviness of its referent, back/open vowels, compared to front/close vowels, were judged to symbolise felt heaviness. The symbolic potential of back/open vowels to represent felt heaviness, predicted on the basis of their symbolism of visual roundedness, supports the proposal that cross-sensory correspondences contribute to sound symbolism.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Additional Information:
©American Psychological Association 2018. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: 10.1037/xlm0000583
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? sound symbolismcross-sensory correspondencesvowel qualityfelt heavinessexperimental and cognitive psychology ??
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Deposited On:
08 Feb 2018 14:22
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 17:32