Sound Symbolism: Challenging the Arbitrariness of Language

Conference Dates: March 26-27, 2010
Conference Location: Emory Conference Center Hotel, 1615 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30329
Organizers: Dr. Lynne C. Nygaard, Dr. Laura L. Namy (Emory University)
Conference Schedule (downloadable slides at links below):

Friday, March 26

  8:30 a.m. Opening Remarks (Laura Namy and Lynne Nygaard)

Prosody and Meaning

    9:00 a.m. Howard Nusbaum (University of Chicago) "The Sound of Movement in Speech"
    9:45 a.m. Laura Namy (Emory University) "Acoustic and Perceptual Evidence of Prosodic Correlates to Word Meaning"
    10:30 a.m. Break
    10:45 a.m. Alex Pentland (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) "Honest Signals: Prelinguistic Communication Patterns in Everyday Interactions"
    11:30 a.m. Discussion
  12:00 p.m. Lunch Buffet (Conference Center Dining Room)

Non-Arbitrary Linguistic Forms

    1:00 p.m. Benjamin Bergen (University of California, San Diego) "Phonaesthemes: Frequency and Psychological Reality"
    1:45 p.m. Lynne Nygaard (Emory University) "Cross-Linguistic Sound Symbolism"
    2:30 p.m. Break
    2:45 p.m. Mutsumi Imai (Keio University) "The Role of Sound Symbolism in Early Word Learning"
    3:30 p.m. Discussion
  4:00 p.m. Reception (Conference Center Pub)

Saturday, March 27


Potential Mechanisms

    9:00 a.m. Daphne Maurer (McMaster University) "Synaesthesia: A New Perspective for Understanding the Development of Perception and Even Language"
    9:45 a.m. Krish Sathian (Emory University) "From Perception to Metaphor"
    10:30 a.m. Break
    10:45 a.m. Morten Christiansen (Cornell University) "A Possible Division of Labor Between Arbitrary and Systematic Sound-Meaning Mappings in Language"
    11:30 a.m. Discussion
  12:00 p.m. Lunch Buffet (Conference Center Dining Room)

Synthesis and Discussion

    1:00 p.m. Linda Smith (Indiana University)
    1:30 p.m. Robert Goldstone (Indiana University)
    2:00 p.m. Lawrence Barsalou (Emory University)


This Workshop is sponsored by the Emory Cognition Project and co-sponsored by the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture, the Program in Linguistics, and a grant from the Emory University Subvention Fund.

Questions? please contact Lauren Clepper at