“Prickly Voice” or “Smelly Voice”? Comprehending novel synaesthetic metaphors

Yin Zhong, Kathleen Ahrens

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Linguistic synaesthesia involves conceptual conflicts created by two concepts from two distinct sensory domains. In previous studies, synaesthetic directionality is of pivotal interest. This study goes beyond examining the conventional synaesthetic directionality of five traditional senses by implementing the experimental method and adopting metaphor comprehension theory (i.e., Conceptual Mapping Model in particular) to explore how people comprehend novel synaesthetic metaphors. We used four measurements, including degree of commonness, appropriateness, understandability, and figurativeness, to judge people’s comprehension over two main types of novel synaesthetic metaphors (presented as adjective-noun pairs): novel synaesthetic metaphors that follow conventional synaesthetic mappings and novel synaesthetic metaphors that violate conventional synaesthetic mappings. The empirical findings demonstrated that novel synaesthetic metaphors that follow conventional directionality are more common expressions, more appropriate usages, and much easier to comprehend than those that violate conventional mapping principles; those that follow conventional mapping principles are also judged as more literal than those do not follow conventional directionality. The current study supports Conceptual Metaphor Model’s claim that mapping principles are the underlying reasons for the source-target domain pairings in conceptual metaphors, and further sheds light on theoretical claims about the systematicity of conceptual mappings for linguistic synaesthesia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAssociation for Computational Lingustics
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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