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January 2022

Phonosymbolism and the emotional nature of sounds: Evidence of the preferential use of particular phonemes in texts of differing emotional tone

Journal/Book: Percept Mot Skills. 1999; 89: PO Box 9229, Missoula, MT 59807, USA. Perceptual Motor Skills. 19-48.

Abstract: This article addresses the emotional meaning (phonosymbolism) of the most basic unit of language-the phoneme. Language excerpts from many sources were transcribed phonetically with the help of a computer program. The distributions of phonemes in different sources (song lyrics, poetry, word lists, advertisements) mere correlated with the emotionality of the language along two dimensions (activation, evaluation) which had been rated by the Dictionary of Affect using another computer program. Significant results characterized all phases of the analysis. Phonemes were distributed differently in different language samples. Frequency of phonemes in a language sample as well as frequency of phonemes in individual words were correlated with emotion. For example, the phoneme /l/ (the one appearing twice in the word lullaby) was used more often in pleasant language samples, in soft or tender language samples, and in passive words. The phoneme /r/ (appearing twice in the word roar) was found more often in unpleasant words and in active words. Possible sources of the relationship between sound production and emotion are discussed.

Note: Article Whissell C, Laurentian Univ, Dept Psychol, Sudbury, ON P3E 2C6, CANADA


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