Vowel-colour symbolism in English and Arabic: a comparative study

  • Pilar Mompean Guillamon Universidad de Castilla la Mancha
Keywords: symbolism, cardinal vowels, colours, synesthesia, universality


Sound symbolism, or the non-arbitrary relationship between the formal and the semantic components of language, has traditionally been a neglected area, mostly due to the strong influence of Saussure’s structuralism during the 20th century. However, it is nowadays receiving strong attention and being subjected to relevant experimental work. The present paper aims at contributing to the field of sound symbolism by means of two experimental tasks with English and Arabic participants that analyse the connection between vowel sounds and colours. The data gathered suggest that participants strongly associate sounds and colours at a better than chance degree, and that although coincidences between the two languages studied exist, the association seems to be strongly influenced by linguistic, cultural and idiosyncratic factors