Sound iconicity of abstract concepts: Place of articulation is implicitly associated with abstract concepts of size and social dominance

2017-11-01T17:39:43Z (GMT) by Jan Auracher
<div><p>The concept of sound iconicity implies that phonemes are intrinsically associated with non-acoustic phenomena, such as emotional expression, object size or shape, or other perceptual features. In this respect, sound iconicity is related to other forms of cross-modal associations in which stimuli from different sensory modalities are associated with each other due to the implicitly perceived correspondence of their primal features. One prominent example is the association between vowels, categorized according to their place of articulation, and size, with back vowels being associated with bigness and front vowels with smallness. However, to date the relative influence of perceptual and conceptual cognitive processing on this association is not clear. To bridge this gap, three experiments were conducted in which associations between nonsense words and pictures of animals or emotional body postures were tested. In these experiments participants had to infer the relation between visual stimuli and the notion of size from the content of the pictures, while directly perceivable features did not support–or even contradicted–the predicted association. Results show that implicit associations between articulatory-acoustic characteristics of phonemes and pictures are mainly influenced by semantic features, i.e., the content of a picture, whereas the influence of perceivable features, i.e., size or shape, is overridden. This suggests that abstract semantic concepts can function as an interface between different sensory modalities, facilitating cross-modal associations.</p></div>