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Spatial metaphor in language can promote the development of cross-modal mappings in children

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JournalDevelopmental Science
DatePublished - 17 Mar 2014
Issue number4
Volume17
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)636-643
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Pitch is often described metaphorically: for example, Farsi and Turkish speakers use a 'thickness' metaphor (low sounds are 'thick' and high sounds are 'thin'), while German and English speakers use a height metaphor ('low', 'high'). This study examines how child and adult speakers of Farsi, Turkish, and German map pitch and thickness using a cross-modal association task. All groups, except for German children, performed significantly better than chance. German-speaking adults' success suggests the pitch-to-thickness association can be learned by experience. But the fact that German children were at chance indicates that this learning takes time. Intriguingly, Farsi and Turkish children's performance suggests that learning cross-modal associations can be boosted through experience with consistent metaphorical mappings in the input language. Pitch is often described metaphorically: for example, Farsi and Turkish speakers use a 'thickness' metaphor (low sounds are 'thick' and high sounds are 'thin'), while German and English speakers use a height metaphor ('low', 'high'). This study examines how child and adult speakers of Farsi, Turkish, and German map pitch and thickness using a cross-modal association task. All groups, except for German children, performed significantly better than chance. This suggests language can boost cross-modal associations.

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