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

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2013 09:14:10 -0400 (EDT)

Alleged 'inherent' (as opposed to what?) emotional (aesthetic?) quality of  
human (homo sapiens) 'speech' sounds (phonemes -- cfr. phone/phoneme and 
the  definition of 'phoneme' as INVOLVING, per necessity 'meaning' or 
'semantic  quality' -- It's the fact that 'put' differs in meaning from 'pot' 
'u' and  'o' are different phonemes in English. They may be treated as the 
same 'sound'  in a different 'idiolect'. 
We are discussing an experimental result which caught the interest (if it  
can be caught) of Phatic. The experimental result is excerpted below. It got 
D.  Ritchie into tubing about words which are tinny and words which are 
woody, which  was funny.

In a message dated 10/29/2013 2:27:20 P.M. Eastern  Daylight Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Once this flaw is seen, the  limits of their results becomes apparent - and 
it is apparent how problematic it  is to think that they are anywhere near 
to demonstrating that the "emotional  meaning" or "emotional quality" of 
wave-frequencies is a purely W1 affair (in  terms of explanation), though they 
seem to think they are well on the road to  showing this.
I was thinking that perhaps the authors should have used 'aesthetic' rather 
 than 'emotional'. But there are other flaws, too. The idea that a puppy 
(or  photograph thereof) is positive while a non-puppy is negative seems 
negative. On  top of that, they are not saying that 100% of those who took the 
test reacted  the way they should have if the result were 'analytic' (a 
priori). A similar  result is cited regarding graduates in a Lancashire 
who had to  separate statements into 'analytic' or 'synthetic' and most 
failing ("Spring  follows Winter"). 
So, I would think that a philosopher should proceed differently.

The propositions have to be made clearer. At one point the  experimenters 
talk of their result as refuting the idea that words can be  onomatopoetic, 
i.e. that there is nothing like an indexical sign, or a word what  means that 
it means by the mere quality of its constituting phones. This seems  
Ever since Plato's Cratylus, onomatopoeia has figured large in  
philosophical studies of language.

There may be other flaws too.
---- A Gricean or Popperian reading should proceed once the clarifications  
are made. Or not.

B. Myers-Schulz, M. Pujara, R. C. Wolf and M. Koenigs,
"Inherent emotional quality of human speech sounds"
Cognition and emotion, vol. 27 -- available at: 
"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 
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 
shift in sound from some   phonemes to others carries emotional meaning of 
own, quite independent  from  word meanings or tone of voice."
"Human speech creates sound at different frequencies. Myers-Schulz  and  
team focused on the changes in certain frequency peaks in  speech - known 
formants - as nonsense words were spoken. Specifically,  they divided 
nonsense  words into those in which the first two formants  went from low 
to high 
(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 on 
many other sound  features, such as  plosives, nasality, intonation and 
volume. Thirty-two adult   participants were shown pairs of these nonsense 
on a computer screen,  one  of which always went low to high, the other 
to low (in terms  of formant  shifts). Together with the words, two 
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 
pictures in the way that seemed most  appropriate. The key finding was  
80 per cent of the time, they matched the  word that had the  low-high 
shift with the positive picture and the  high-to-low  word with the 
"It was a similar story when 20 more adult participants performed the   
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 
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 
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 
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  
emotional subtext," the  researchers said. "Indeed our data  suggest that 
'Darth Vader' is an acoustically  more appropriate name  for an 
miscreant than 'Barth Vaber'."

Phatic's editorial: 

"Language isn't arbitrary, convention based after all". "A bit of   
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, 
ya," responded Beanieman  despondently. phatic nodded,  hesitantly.  "Why 
apt -  psycho-acoustically speaking - that Darth  Vader wasn't called Barth 

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