Poster presentation in Birmingham, From icon to abstraction

Poster presentation in Birmingham, From icon to abstraction

Just finished presenting a poster in the ‘From icon to abstraction, how iconicity shapes the lexicon’ workshop in Birmingham. Had a great time talking about iconicity with likeminded people!

You can read more about the fantastic workshop here, and find the abstract for my poster, which I worked on together with John Huisman, Arthur Thompson, and Youngah Do, below:

Multisensoriality in the iconic lexicon of Japanese: an explorative study of ideophones
Bonnie McLean¹, John L.A. Huisman¹, Arthur Lewis Thompson², Youngah Do²
¹Uppsala University, ²University of Hong Kong

Iconicity is inherently grounded in sensory experience (Winter et al., 2017), yet few studies have explored how sensory information is packaged in iconic words (although see Dingemanse & Majid, 2012; Nuckolls, 2019). Inspired by psycholinguistic work on prosaic vocabulary (e.g. Lynott & Connell, 2009; Speed & Brybaert, 2021), we explore the encoding of sensory information in Japanese ideophones in an online rating task. Ideophones are lexicalised depictions, meaning they employ an analogical mode of representation that invites and affords iconicity (Dingemanse, 2019). Ideophones are highly multisensory, but not all perceptual qualities are equally straightforward to depict in speech (Dingemanse, 2012; McLean, 2021). For example, within visual perception, movement is more represented than shape, and representations of colour are rare. In this pilot study, we adapted the traditional sensory norming model to explore how the iconicity of ideophones determines their encoding of perceptual qualities. We asked 19 native Japanese speakers to rate 45 ideophones for how strongly they evoke different kinds of perceptions. We made two changes to the design of the task. First, while previous studies use five rating scales representing five senses, we used thirteen, adding extra dimensions within the visual and interoceptive senses. Second, rather than using written stimuli, we used video recordings where the ideophone was spoken aloud with accompanying gesture, to model the performativity of ideophones in real language use (Dingemanse, 2013; Nuckolls, 2020). With this task we were able to quantify the multisensoriality of Japanese ideophones, and explore their hierarchical encoding of sensory information. The findings raise questions about the degree to which the hierarchical encoding of sensory information in ideophones is explained by, (1) their iconicity, (2) their use of the vocal modality, and (3) universal cognitive constraints. We invite further explorations in this area from researchers of signed and spoken languages.

Dingemanse, M. (2012). Advances in the cross-linguistic study of ideophones. Language and Linguistics Compass, 6(10), 654–672.
Dingemanse, M. (2013). Ideophones and gesture in everyday speech. Gesture, 13(2), 143–165.
Dingemanse, M. (2019). “Ideophone” as a comparative concept. In K. Akita & P. Pardeshi (Eds.), Ideophones, mimetics, and expressives (pp. 13–33). John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Dingemanse, M., & Majid, A. (2012). The semantic structure of sensory vocabulary in an African language. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 300–305). Cognitive Science Society.
Lynott, D., & Connell, L. (2009). Modality exclusivity norms for 423 object properties. Behavior Research Methods, 41(2), 558–564.
McLean, B. (2021). Revising an implicational hierarchy for the meanings of ideophones, with special reference to Japonic. Linguistic Typology, 25(3), 507–549.
Nuckolls, J. B. (2019). The sensori-semantic clustering of ideophonic meaning in Pastaza Quichua. In K. Akita & P. Pardeshi (Eds.), Ideophones, Mimetics and Expressives (pp. 167–198). John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Nuckolls, J. B. (2020). “How do you even know what ideophones mean?”: Gestures’ contributions to ideophone semantics in Quichua. Gesture, 19(2–3), 161–195.
Speed, L. J., & Brybaert, M. (2021). Dutch sensory modality norms. Behavior Research Methods, 1–13.
Winter, B., Perlman, M., Perry, L. K., & Lupyan, G. (2017). Which words are most iconic? Interaction Studies, 18(3), 443–464.