Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Lecture by Arash Aryani: A Neurocognitive Approach
to Affective Iconicity
A core assumption of classic linguistics —the arbitrariness of the sign— states that words are paired with objects in an arbitrary fashion. Thus, the sound of a word per se has no inherent semantic content, nor does it play any stand-alone role in shaping the meaning of words. However, the long history of poetry and the arts, as well as recent empirical results suggest that the way a word sounds (e.g., soft vs. harsh) can convey affective information related to emotional responses (e.g., pleasantness vs. harshness). The focus of this talk is on the cognitive and neural bases of sound-meaning relationships in the affective domain, termed “affective iconicity”. Specifically, I will present results that address the two following main questions i) Does the sound of words (i.e., phonemes, acoustic features) evoke affective responses observable at the behavioral and neural level? ii) Does the sound of words influence the processes of meaning making and semantic decision in the affective domain? Results of these studies were used to upgrade the standard models of language processing by conceiving corresponding modules responsible for the interactive effect of sound and meaning during affective evaluation.