Cross-Modal Associations between Sounds and Drink Tastes/Textures: A Study with Spontaneous Production of Sound-Symbolic Words

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Many languages have a word class whose speech sounds are linked to sensory experiences. Several recent studies have demonstrated cross-modal associations (or correspondences) between sounds and gustatory sensations by asking participants to match predefined sound-symbolic words (e.g., “maluma/takete”) with the taste/texture of foods. Here, we further explore cross-modal associations using the spontaneous production of words and semantic ratings of sensations. In the experiment, after drinking liquids, participants were asked to express their taste/texture using Japanese sound-symbolic words, and at the same time, to evaluate it in terms of criteria expressed by adjectives. Because the Japanese language has a large vocabulary of sound-symbolic words, and Japanese people frequently use them to describe taste/texture, analyzing a variety of Japanese sound-symbolic words spontaneously produced to express taste/textures might enable us to explore the mechanism of taste/texture categorization. A hierarchical cluster analysis based on the relationship between linguistic sounds and taste/texture evaluations revealed the structure of sensation categories. The results indicate that an emotional evaluation like pleasant/unpleasant is the primary cluster in gustation.

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