Synaesthetic metaphors in English

Sean Andrew Day, Purdue University


This research addresses the following questions: (1) Are there similarities in the sequential orderings of synaesthetic associations and synaesthetic metaphors?; and, (2) Regardless of whether synaesthesia is neurological, cultural-linguistic, or both, through what processes might we seek explication and universal patterns? Synaesthesia is a cognitive state in which stimuli to one sense are simultaneously perceived as if by one or more other senses. A synaesthetic metaphor is a trope in which a certain perceptual mode is initially specified, but the imagery is linguistically related in terms belonging to a differing perceptual mode. Research in neurology posits relationships between the hippocampus, the neurological state known as synaesthesia, and associations made in the construction of synaesthetic metaphors. This study specifies six senses for English sources: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and temperature perception. Metaphors from both printed and electronic texts are obtained, tabulated, and analyzed. As an initial step in cross-linguistic comparison, synaesthetic metaphors from a text in German are also compiled. For physiological synaesthesia, colored sounds are most common; in English literature, synaesthetic metaphors employed for descriptions of tactile sound predominate. Initial research indicates that, cross-linguistically, sound is most often expanded by other sensory perceptions.




Raskin, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Cultural anthropology|Physiological psychology|Neurology

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