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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The bouba-kiki effect in a production task


Research on sound symbolism has shown that speakers of different languages associate specific consonants and vowels with round and pointy shapes, a phenomenon commonly dubbed the bouba-kiki effect. Most of this work rely on forced-choice tasks in which participants assign previously crafted pseudowords (like kiki or bouba) to visual stimuli. Here we investigate this phenomenon with a production written task. Participants had to create a new word they thought would be a good name for round and spiky images. In this less constrained task, spiky images received names with more high/front vowels and voiceless stops, while round shapes were named with more back/rounded vowels and lateral and nasal consonants. In great part these results replicate previous findings, showing that participants recourse to sound symbolism even when the task at hand gives them more freedom to create names to abstract shapes.

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