Directionality of linguistic synesthesia in Mandarin: A corpus-based study

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20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the mapping directionality tendencies of linguistic synesthesia in Mandarin using a corpus-based approach. Based on this set of less-studied data, we find that Mandarin synesthesia does not share the same directionality tendencies with linguistic synesthesia in Indo-European languages, which challenges the assumed cross-linguistic universality of these transfer patterns. Based on the corpus data, we demonstrate that there are three types of directional tendencies for Mandarin synesthesia: unidirectional, biased-directional, and bidirectional. Unidirectional synesthesia is rule-based, while synesthesia that is biased in one direction is frequency-based. In contrast, bidirectional synesthesia shows no directional preference. Thus, the directionality of linguistic synesthesia cannot be interpreted as rule-based or frequency-based exclusively. In addition, this study finds that linguistic synesthesia shows language-specific variations for directionality tendencies grounded in both embodiment and neural mechanisms, which challenges the theory that linguistic synesthesia is a bio-neurologically based linguistic realization. Lastly, the fact that linguistic synesthesia involves both rule-based and frequency-based transfer directionalities suggests that the relationship between linguistic synesthesia and metaphor merits further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102744
Early online date28 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Linguistic synesthesia
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Sensory lexicon
  • Transfer directionality
  • Variations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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