Is un stylo sharper than une épée? Investigating the interaction of sound symbolism and grammatical gender in English and French speakers

Autoři: David M. Sidhu aff001;  Penny M. Pexman aff001;  Jean Saint-Aubin aff002
Působiště autorů: University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada aff001;  Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225623


While the arbitrariness of language has long been considered one of its defining features, there is growing evidence that non-arbitrariness also plays an important role. Here we investigated two sources of non-arbitrariness: systematicity (via grammatical gender) and iconicity (via shape sound symbolism). We manipulated these two elements orthogonally, allowing us to examine the effect of each. In Experiment 1, we found that French speakers associated nonwords containing feminine (masculine) endings with round (sharp) shapes. French speakers also associated nonwords containing round-sounding (sharp-sounding) phonemes with round (sharp) shapes. This was repeated using auditory presentation with both an English-speaking (Experiment 2a) and French-speaking (Experiment 2b) sample. As predicted, the English speakers showed no effects of grammatical gender, while the French speakers did. These results demonstrate that speakers of a language with grammatical gender associate different properties to words belonging to different genders. The results also show that sound symbolism can emerge in stimuli with existing associated information (i.e., endings indicative of grammatical gender, and the association that they evoke). Finally, while previous studies have looked at effects of arbitrary and non-arbitrary mappings contained in a single stimulus, this is the first study to demonstrate that different kinds of non-arbitrary mappings can have an effect when appearing in the same stimulus. Together these results add to our understanding of the importance of non-arbitrariness in language.

Klíčová slova:

Consonants – Language – Linguistic morphology – Phonology – Semantics – Sensory cues – Vowels – Phonemes


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