In Language-matters on Wednesday 25th June, 2008 by Guy

What if the choice of sound to describe “basic concepts” is not arbitrary?

One example of this is the bouba/kiki effect. In a psychological experiment first designed by Wolfgang Köhler, people are asked to choose which of two shapes is named bouba and which is named kiki. 95% to 98% of people choose kiki for the orange angular shape and bouba for the purple rounded shape. With individuals on the island of Tenerife, Kohler showed a similar preference between shapes called “takete” and “maluma”. Recent work by Daphne Maurer and colleagues has shown that even children as young as 2.5 (too young to read) show this effect (Maurer, Pathman & Mondloch 2006).

[source: Wikipedia!, in the article about Synaesthesia

This is a controversial topic, discussed also in Steven Pinker’s “The Language Instinct”. What do you think is the truth? And if you’re so sure, why don’t you find a way to find out once and for all already?


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