Synaesthetic sound iconicity

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This paper reports results from an empirical study in synaesthetic sound iconicity, a specific form of phonosemantics defined as implicit and systematic associations of acoustic features of phonemes with non-acoustic phenomena. I argue that acoustic features of phonemes are implicitly associated with one pole or the other (e.g., high level or low level) of bipolar semantic concepts such as activity or dominance. Based on this assumption, it was hypothesized that pseudo-words consisting of plosive consonants and back vowels are associated with the emotion of anger, whereas pseudo-words consisting of sonorant consonants and front vowels are associated with the emotion of fear. This hypothesis was tested in an experimental setting, applying a speeded classification paradigm.


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