Gotta Name’em All: an Experimental Study on the Sound Symbolism of Pokémon Names in Brazilian Portuguese

  • Mahayana C. GodoyEmail author
  • Neemias Silva de Souza Filho
  • Juliana G. Marques de Souza
  • Hális A. N. França
  • Shigeto Kawahara


Sound-symbolic patterns which relate to the perception of size were found to motivate the behavior of English and Japanese speakers in the naming of pre- and post-evolution Pokémon. The current study builds from this finding and investigates which sound-symbolic association speakers of Brazilian Portuguese (BP) employ to name Pokémon characters. Results from 3 experiments show that vowel quality, phonological length and voiced obstruents, usually used to signal differences in size, are used to signal differences in evolution; however, the effects of voiced obstruents are not identical to what was previously observed in the behavior of Japanese speakers. We argue that although there is a universal sound symbolism associated with these sounds and the perception of largeness, its manifestation differs cross-linguistically. To the best of our knowledge, this is one the first experimental research to investigate sound symbolism and the perception of size in BP.


Sound symbolism Brazilian Portuguese Pokémon 



We would like to thank Matheus Mafra for his work on the first and second experiments described in this paper. We are also grateful to Ms. toto-mame for allowing us to use her pictures for the current experiments. This project is partially supported by the JSPS grant #17K13448.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Humanities, Languages and Arts, Federal University of Rio Grande do NorteNatalBrazil
  2. 2.The Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies, Keio UniversityTokyoJapan

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