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The thickness of pitch: Crossmodal metaphors in Farsi, Turkish and Zapotec

MPS-Authors

Shayan,  Shakila
Language Acquisition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

Ozturk,  Ozge
Language Acquisition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, New York University;

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Sicoli,  Mark A.
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
University of Alaska, Fairbanks;
Language documentation and data mining;

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Citation

Shayan, S., Ozturk, O., & Sicoli, M. A. (2011). The thickness of pitch: Crossmodal metaphors in Farsi, Turkish and Zapotec. The Senses & Society, 6(1), 96-105. doi:10.2752/174589311X12893982233911.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-BB87-F
Abstract
Speakers use vocabulary for spatial verticality and size to describe pitch. A high–low contrast is common to many languages, but others show contrasts like thick–thin and big–small. We consider uses of thick for low pitch and thin for high pitch in three languages: Farsi, Turkish, and Zapotec. We ask how metaphors for pitch structure the sound space. In a language like English, high applies to both high-pitched as well as high-amplitude (loud) sounds; low applies to low-pitched as well as low-amplitude (quiet) sounds. Farsi, Turkish, and Zapotec organize sound in a different way. Thin applies to high pitch and low amplitude and thick to low pitch and high amplitude. We claim that these metaphors have their sources in life experiences. Musical instruments show co-occurrences of higher pitch with thinner, smaller objects and lower pitch with thicker, larger objects. On the other hand bodily experience can ground the high–low metaphor. A raised larynx produces higher pitch and lowered larynx lower pitch. Low-pitched sounds resonate the chest, a lower place than highpitched sounds. While both patterns are available from life experience, linguistic experience privileges one over the other, which results in differential structuring of the multiple dimensions of sound.