4 thoughts on “Languages spoken by more people are more sound-symbolic

  1. Hi Shiri! Great project! I may have missed it, but do you have any idea about whether participants had some (maybe even extremely superficial) experience with some of those widely spoken languages? Was this something that you asked about? Either way, if you asked participants to guess what language the words were from, do you think accuracy on that might correspond to accuracy on guessing which word was which? I might predict this myself — We know that iconicity can be language/context specific as well as language/context general, and it might be that having some very superficial experience with a language could potentially be enough to key into language specific patterns, but I’m curious what you think! It wouldn’t override your main claims, but perhaps be a partial predictor. (also, if you see this later, feel free to email me at savithry@umich.edu!)

    1. Hi Savi! We worried about this, so we did 3 things:
      (1) We avoided most European languages so instead of choosing the 20 most widely spoken, we have 20 of the most common languages, to not include French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch , Italian etc. Our widely spoken languages were Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, Hausa, Vietnamese, Swahili, Indonesian, Russian etc., so languages less likely to be known by our participants.
      (2) We asked them to also choose the “I recognize this word” option not only if they know the word but also if it’s similar to a word in a language they know, even if not exactly the same.
      (3) We also asked them about their languages but I haven’t looked at that yet except for noticing that 95 out of the 128 were native English speakers, mostly monolingual.

      1. Thank you Shiri! That sounds great, and definitely addresses my question! In the work I’ve been doing, I’ve been questioning the category of monolingual, and trying to learn what type of language knowledge even self-described monolinguals have (we found, for example, that self-described US English monolinguals guessed the word origin of low frequency words at above chance levels, when the languages are “familiar”, like Spanish, German, French, Latin). But this method might be nice for me to investigate that topic, which I know you were trying to avoid in your experiment! Thanks again for such a great talk! I was excited to see it!

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