Iconicity ratings for 10,995 Spanish words and their relationship with psycholinguistic variables

Abstract

The study of iconicity, or the resemblance between word forms and their meanings, has been the focus of increasing attention in recent years. Nevertheless, there is a lack of large-scale normative studies on the iconic properties of words, which could prove crucial to expanding our understanding of form–meaning associations. In this work, we report subjective iconicity ratings for 10,995 visually presented Spanish words from 1350 participants who were asked to repeat each of the words aloud before rating them. The response reliability and the consistency between the present and previous ratings were good. The relationships between iconicity and several psycholinguistic variables were examined through multiple regression analyses. We found that sensory experience ratings were the main predictor of iconicity, and that early-acquired and more abstract words received higher iconicity scores. We also found that onomatopoeias and interjections were the most iconic words, followed by adjectives. Finally, a follow-up study was conducted in which a subsample of 360 words with different levels of iconicity from the visual presentation study was auditorily presented to the participants. A high correlation was observed between the iconicity scores in the visual and auditory presentations. The normative data provided in this database might prove useful in expanding the body of knowledge on issues such as the processing of the iconic properties of words and the role of word-form associations in the acquisition of vocabularies. The database can be downloaded from https://osf.io/v5er3/.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (PGC2018-098558-B-I00, PGC2018-097145-B-I00, PID2019-107206GB-I00, and RED2018-102615-T), by the Comunidad de Madrid (H2019/HUM-5705) and by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (2018PFR-URV-B2-32). We thank Bodo Winter and an anonymous reviewer for their highly valuable comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. A. Hinojosa.

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Appendix

Appendix

Instructions for iconicity ratings (Spanish)

En este cuestionario usted deberá calificar distintas palabras en castellano en función de hasta qué punto el sonido de las palabras se parece a su significado.

Déjenos explicarle algo más sobre esto. Algunas palabras en castellano tienen un sonido que se parece a su significado. Por ejemplo, la palabra RONCAR suena como el ruido que alguien hace al respirar mientras duerme. La onomatopeya ¡PLAS! suena como el ruido que un objeto hace al caer al suelo. Otro ejemplo es la palabra CHICO, que suena como algo pequeño (en comparación con GIGANTE, que suena grande). Estas palabras son icónicas. Podría adivinar qué significan aunque no supiera hablar castellano. Otras palabras no son icónicas, es decir, son arbitrarias. Por ejemplo, no hay nada que suene canino o felino en las palabras PERRO y GATO. Si usted no supiera castellano, no podría adivinar su significado.

Para cada palabra que vea, califique en una escala del 1 al 7 cuán icónica cree que es, tomando 1 como muy arbitraria (es decir, el sonido de la palabra no tiene nada que ver con su significado) y 7 como muy icónica (es decir, el sonido de la palabra está muy relacionado con su significado). Antes de otorgarle una puntuación, repítase la palabra en voz alta, con el objetivo de prestar verdadera atención a cómo suena y compararlo con su significado. Siéntase libre de usar todo el rango de números, del 1 al 7; al mismo tiempo, no se preocupe por la frecuencia con la que usa un número en particular, siempre y cuando sea honesto en sus calificaciones. Si no conoce el significado de una palabra, elija la opción “No sé el significado de esta palabra”. Trabaje con bastante rapidez, pero no sea descuidado en sus calificaciones, lo importante es que sea lo más preciso posible. Recuerde que no hay respuestas buenas o malas, ya que le estamos preguntando por su impresión acerca de las palabras.

Instructions for the iconicity questionnaires (English translation)

In this questionnaire you will be asked to rate the extent to which the sound of different Spanish words resembles their meaning.

Let us explain this a little further. Some Spanish words have a sound that resembles their meaning. For example, the word RONCAR (“SNORE”) sounds like the noise someone makes when they breathe in their sleep. The onomatopoeia ¡PLAS! sounds like the noise an object makes when it falls to the ground. Another example is the word CHICO (“SMALL”), which sounds like something small (compared to GIGANTE (“GIANT”), which sounds big). These words are iconic. You could guess what they mean even if you didn’t speak Spanish. Other words are not iconic, that is, they are arbitrary. For example, there is nothing that sounds canine or feline in the words PERRO (“DOG”) or GATO (“CAT”). If you didn’t speak Spanish, you wouldn’t be able to guess their meaning.

Rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how iconic you think each word is, taking 1 as very arbitrary (i.e., the sound of the word is not related at all to its meaning) and 7 as very iconic (i.e., the sound of the word is very related to its meaning). Before giving a rating, please repeat the word aloud to pay close attention to how it sounds and to compare its sound to its meaning. Feel free to use the entire range of values, from 1 to 7. Don’t worry about how often you use a particular value, as long as you are accurate in your ratings. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, choose the “I don’t know the meaning of this word” option. Try to answer quickly, but don’t be careless with your ratings—it is important to be as accurate as possible. Remember that there are no right or wrong answers, because we are asking you about your impression of the words.

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Hinojosa, J.A., Haro, J., Magallares, S. et al. Iconicity ratings for 10,995 Spanish words and their relationship with psycholinguistic variables. Behav Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01496-z

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Keywords

  • Iconicity
  • Sound-symbolism
  • Concreteness
  • SERs
  • Subjective AoA