Figure 1: The bouba–kiki phenomenon. | Nature

Figure 1: The bouba–kiki phenomenon.

From: Sound and meaning in the world's languages

Figure 1

When asked which of the shapes shown are probably named 'bouba' or 'kiki' in an unfamiliar foreign language, people consistently choose the rounded shape (blue) for bouba and associate the sharp-edged shape (green) with kiki3 (bouba and kiki are invented words). This link between the consonants 'b' and 'k' and round and sharp shapes, respectively, is consistently found in speakers of different languages, and occurs when other invented words are tested5: for example, 'baluma' is also associated with the rounded shape. Blasi et al.2 find that such relationships between the sound and meaning of words are more common and widespread than previously suspected.

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