[lit-ideas] The Three Grices -- or Grice's Adventures in Popperland

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:49:14 -0400 (EDT)

My last post today. 
For the record, the Borges quote:
 ‘The roots of language are irrational and of a magical satire. The  Dane 
who pronounced the name of Thor or the Saxon who uttered the name of Thunor  
did not know whether these words represented the god of thunder or the 
rumble  that is beard after the lightning flash. Poetry wants to return to that 
ancient  magic. Without fixed rules, it progresses in a hesitant, daring way, 
as if  moving in darkness. Poetry is a mysterious chess, whose chessboard 
and whose  pieces change as in a dream and over which I shall be gazing after 
I am dead.’ 
-- which may relate to this experimental study referred to by T. Fjeld that 
 McEvoy was commenting on.
_torgeir_fjeld@yahoo.no_ (mailto:torgeir_fjeld@xxxxxxxx) ,  in "Language 
isn't arbitrary, convention based after all". "A bit of  numerological 
mysticism can do wonders for the academic branch known as  Linguistic 
innit?" phatic muttered. It was a dark and gloomy night at  the No Holds 
Barred cafe in uptown Florida. "You've been reading the Digest  again, 'aven't 
ya," responded Beanieman despondently. phatic nodded,  hesitantly.  "Why it's 
apt - psycho-acoustically speaking - that Darth  Vader wasn't called Barth 

"The relationship between the meaning of a word and the letter strings of  
which it is comprised is usually thought to be arbitrary. That is, the 
meaning  of a word is dictated by convention and the emotional tone of the 
speaker. Strip  these away and the sounds of the letter groupings themselves - 
known as phonemes  - are generally considered meaningless. At least that's been 
a popular view for  some time. But now a study has been published that 
challenges this account.  Blake Myers-Schulz and his colleagues show that the 
shift in sound from some  phonemes to others carries emotional meaning of its 
own, quite independent from  word meanings or tone of voice."

"Human speech creates sound at different frequencies. Myers-Schulz and  his 
team focused on the changes in certain frequency peaks in speech - known as 
 formants - as nonsense words were spoken. Specifically, they divided 
nonsense  words into those in which the first two formants went from low to 
(e.g.  bupaba, pafabi, mipaba) and those in which this sound shift was 
reversed, going  high to low (e.g. dugada, tatoku, gadigu). They were matched 
many other sound  features, such as plosives, nasality, intonation and 
volume. Thirty-two adult  participants were shown pairs of these nonsense words 
on a computer screen, one  of which always went low to high, the other high 
to low (in terms of formant  shifts). Together with the words, two pictures 
were shown, one positive, one  negative (e.g. a cute puppy and a snarling 
dog). The participants' job was to  allocate the two nonsense words to the two 
pictures in the way that seemed most  appropriate. The key finding was that 
80 per cent of the time, they matched the  word that had the low-high sound 
shift with the positive picture and the  high-to-low word with the negative 

"It was a similar story when 20 more adult participants performed the  same 
task but with the words spoken by a computer programme rather than shown  
visually. In this case, they matched the low-to-high nonsense words with the  
positive pictures on 65 per cent of occasions - still far more often than 
you'd  expect based on chance alone. The findings suggest that strings of 
phonemes (the  sounds that comprise words) have an emotional quality of their 
own, quite  separate from any word meaning or the tone or volume of an 
utterance. This  emotional meaning is conveyed purely by the acoustic 
of the word as  the sound frequencies change from one phoneme to the next. 
There could be  intriguing real-life applications for this research in terms 
of marketing and PR  because the implication is that some words convey 
positive emotion simply by  virtue of their acoustic properties, above and 
any literal word meaning.  "Even in artistic contexts, such as film and 
literature, these acoustic  principles could be applied to evoke a particular 
emotional subtext," the  researchers said. "Indeed our data suggest that 
'Darth Vader' is an acoustically  more appropriate name for an intergalactic 
miscreant than 'Barth Vaber'."
Reference: Myers-Schulz B, Pujara M, Wolf RC and Koenigs M (2013). Inherent 
 emotional quality of human speech sounds. Cognition and emotion, 27 (6), 
1105-13  PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23286242 
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