Sound symbolism facilitates word learning in 14-month-olds

Mutsumi Imai, Michiko Miyazaki, H. Henny Yeung, Shohei Hidaka, Katerina Kantartzis, Hiroyuki Okada, Sotaro Kita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Sound symbolism, or the nonarbitrary link between linguistic sound and meaning, has often been discussed in connection with language evolution, where the oral imitation of external events links phonetic forms with their referents (e.g., Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001). In this research, we explore whether sound symbolism may also facilitate synchronic language learning in human infants. Sound symbolism may be a useful cue particularly at the earliest developmental stages of word learning, because it potentially provides a way of bootstrapping word meaning from perceptual information. Using an associative word learning paradigm, we demonstrated that 14-month-old infants could detect Köhler-type (1947) shape-sound symbolism, and could use this sensitivity in their effort to establish a word-referent association.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0116494
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Feb 19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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