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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Starr et al. (2018) did not report any finding for these variables.

  2. 2.

    When a Pokémon undergoes evolution, size is not the only change it experiences: it becomes stronger, faster, and sometimes its looks becomes more aggressive (see Fig. 1). Of all these changing features, size is the one that can be visually perceived and can clearly show that two related Pokémon are the pre and post-evolution version of the same character. In our study, we made this difference even more striking by making the pictures of post-evolution Pokémon characters larger (“Materials and Procedures” section). For this reason, we take any effect that shows a correlation between sound and evolutionary status to be at least partially grounded on the size of these characters.

  3. 3.

    https://t0t0mo.jimdo.com/. The pictures were used in the experiment with the permission of the artist.

  4. 4.

    Our referees for the first experiment were the second and the fourth co-author of this paper, and an undergraduate student at the UFRN English Language program.

  5. 5.

    As we mentioned, these studies are independent and differ in their methodology. The corpus for the study in Japanese was comprised of texts published in newspapers, while the study in BP used a dictionary. We use their results here to present an estimative of frequency for the voiced obstruents in these languages, but a thorough investigation of this issue would require a new and more balanced cross-linguistic corpus study.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Appendices

Appendix A: Names for Experiment 2

Condition 1 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Rituto Talusso
Pair 2 Rissuke Namusse
Pair 3 Ticero Natecho
Pair 4 Sifupe Kacupe
Pair 5 Mirtelo Nanseno
Pair 6 Sikelo Katerro
Pair 7 Picro Faplo
Pair 8 Rinco Sampo
Pair 9 Nito Lapo
Pair 10 Tinclo Fantro
Condition 2 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Tinke Pincepe
Pair 2 Pumo Ruchelo
Pair 3 Paina Laipefa
Pair 4 Nutax Tuncecax
Pair 5 Rimpo Nilnurro
Pair 6 Kampa Kalsena
Pair 7 Mape Latuste
Pair 8 Upex Ulepex
Pair 9 Oma Onura
Pair 10 Nifom Rirechom
Condition 3 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Rilata Dilapa
Pair 2 Miupessa Ziutefa
Pair 3 Ruakel Juachel
Pair 4 Lilnonox Giscomox
Pair 5 Kofole Gotoke
Pair 6 Crepifo Dressimo
Pair 7 Fessuta Denuna
Pair 8 Foama Zoana
Pair 9 Sossepra Domecra
Pair 10 Lompoco Gostoro
Condition 4 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Pumpocla Durzocla
Pair 2 Fripoma Dribopa
Pair 3 Noporam Bovomam
Pair 4 Secara Vejacha
Pair 5 Namila Babirra
Pair 6 Cenice Bessize
Pair 7 Xitefar Gimevar
Pair 8 Trapena Graceba
Pair 9 Furofo Dupojo
Pair 10 Flofesse Glossebe

Appendix B: Names for Experiment 3

Condition 1 × 0 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Rilata Dilapa
Pair 2 Miupessa Ziutefa
Pair 3 Ruakel Juachel
Pair 4 Lilnonox Giscomox
Pair 5 Kofole Gotoke
Pair 6 Crepifo Dressimo
Pair 7 Fessuta Denuna
Pair 8 Foama Zoana
Pair 9 Sossepra Domecra
Pair 10 Lompoco Gostoro
Condition 2 × 0 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Pumpocla Durzocla
Pair 2 Fripoma Dribopa
Pair 3 Noporam Bovomam
Pair 4 Secara Vejacha
Pair 5 Namila Babirra
Pair 6 Cenice Bessize
Pair 7 Xitefar Gimevar
Pair 8 Trapena Graceba
Pair 9 Furofo Dupojo
Pair 10 Flofesse Glossebe
Condition 3 × 0 Names expected for pre-evolution Pokémons Names expected for post-evolution Pokémons
Pair 1 Potula Boduza
Pair 2 Rapomo Zazogo
Pair 3 Funcrema Zungreva
Pair 4 Cunetri Dujedri
Pair 5 Mikepe Zibeve
Pair 6 Flukini Blubiji
Pair 7 Serselo Jervego
Pair 8 Milete Vijebe
Pair 9 Nipriro Didrivo
Pair 10 Rofato Vogazo

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Godoy, M.C., de Souza Filho, N.S., de Souza, J.G.M. et al. Gotta Name’em All: an Experimental Study on the Sound Symbolism of Pokémon Names in Brazilian Portuguese. J Psycholinguist Res 49, 717–740 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-019-09679-2

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Keywords

  • Sound symbolism
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Pokémon