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.
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