, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 516-526
Date: 06 Oct 2012

Modality exclusivity norms for 400 nouns: The relationship between perceptual experience and surface word form

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Abstract

We present modality exclusivity norms for 400 randomly selected noun concepts, for which participants provided perceptual strength ratings across five sensory modalities (i.e., hearing, taste, touch, smell, and vision). A comparison with previous norms showed that noun concepts are more multimodal than adjective concepts, as nouns tend to subsume multiple adjectival property concepts (e.g., perceptual experience of the concept baby involves auditory, haptic, olfactory, and visual properties, and hence leads to multimodal perceptual strength). To show the value of these norms, we then used them to test a prediction of the sound symbolism hypothesis: Analysis revealed a systematic relationship between strength of perceptual experience in the referent concept and surface word form, such that distinctive perceptual experience tends to attract distinctive lexical labels. In other words, modality-specific norms of perceptual strength are useful for exploring not just the nature of grounded concepts, but also the nature of form–meaning relationships. These norms will be of benefit to those interested in the representational nature of concepts, the roles of perceptual information in word processing and in grounded cognition more generally, and the relationship between form and meaning in language development and evolution.