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Shayan_The Thickness of pitch_Sens&Soc_2011

Shayan_The Thickness of pitch_Sens&Soc_2011

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Published by: Peter H Wong on Mar 30, 2011
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96
REPRINTS AVAILABLEDIRECTLY FROM THEPUBLISHERSPHOTOCOPYINGPERMITTED BYLICENSE ONLY© BERG 2011PRINTED IN THE UKSenses & Society VOLUME 6, ISSUE 1PP 96–105
Senses & Society DOI: 10.2752/174589311X12893982233911
The Thickness ofPitch: CrossmodalMetaphors in Farsi,Turkish, and Zapotec
Shakila Shayan, Ozge Ozturk andMark A. Sicoli
ABSTRACT Speakers use vocabularyfor spatial verticality and size to describepitch. A
high–low
contrast is common tomany languages, but others show contrastslike
thick–thin
and
big–small
. We consideruses of
thick 
for low pitch and
thin
for highpitch in three languages: Farsi, Turkish,and Zapotec. We ask how metaphorsfor pitch structure the sound space. In alanguage like English,
high
applies to bothhigh-pitched as well as high-amplitude(loud) sounds;
low
applies to low-pitchedas well as low-amplitude (quiet) sounds.Farsi, Turkish, and Zapotec organize soundin a different way.
Thin
applies to highpitch and low amplitude and
thick 
to lowpitch and high amplitude. We claim thatthese metaphors have their sources in lifeexperiences. Musical instruments show
Shakila Shayan is apost-doctoral fellow atthe Max Planck Institutefor Psycholinguistics.Shakila.Shayan@mpi.nlOzge Ozturk is atNYU, Department ofPsychology, and wasformerly a post-doc atthe Max Planck Institutefor Psycholinguistics.Ozge.Ozturk@nyu.eduMark Sicoli isAssistant Professorof Anthropology,University of Alaska,Fairbanks, formerlywith the MaxPlanck Institute forPsycholinguistics.msicoli@alaska.edu
 
Senses & Society
97
Thickness of Pitch
co-occurrences of higher pitch with thinner, smallerobjects and lower pitch with thicker, larger objects.On the other hand bodily experience can ground thehigh–low metaphor. A raised larynx produces higherpitch and lowered larynx lower pitch. Low-pitchedsounds resonate the chest, a lower place than high-pitched sounds. While both patterns are availablefrom life experience, linguistic experience privilegesone over the other, which results in differentialstructuring of the multiple dimensions of sound.
KEYWORDS: pitch, metaphor, cross-linguistic, crossmodal,embodimentIn a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,Leaping higher, higher, higher,With a desperate desire,“The Bells” (Poe 1984)At a poetry reading, an anonymous reader of these linesfrom “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe raised his voice inboth pitch and volume when reaching the words “higher,higher, higher.” A similar imagery in the voice occurs nightly whenparents read children bedtime stories with animated intonationsthrough which meanings for upward movement are performedin
rising
pitches and those for downward with
falling
pitches. Asauthors, our own use of the words
rising
and
falling
to talk about pitchin the previous sentence again presents an example of a verticalitymetaphor for pitch in English discourse. A metaphor is a relation inwhich one domain is understood in terms of another. Lakoff andJohnson (1980) claim that metaphors structure our perceptions andunderstandings, and are pervasive in everyday life. The pattern of high–low to talk about pitch is so pervasive in Western Europeanlanguages that Richard Ashley critically wrote that “the mappingof fundamental frequencies with low frequencies to low verticalpositions . . . and high frequencies to high vertical positions seems so‘natural’ as to be either unquestioned or proof of innateness” (Ashley2004: 64).Verticality, however, is not the only way to talk about pitch. Somelanguages use words for qualities of mass to describe pitch. InKpelle, a language spoken in Liberia,
large
and
small 
are used todescribe the pitch of sounds and human voices. A
large
voice is lowin frequency and louder than a
small 
voice. Though
large–small 
ismore frequent, some Kpelle speakers also use
heavy 
for low pitchand
light
for high pitch (Stone 1981). In such a linguistic system alow-pitched voice is one that is big, loud, and heavy.
+
 
Senses & Society
98
Shakila Shayan, Ozge Ozturk and Mark A. Sicoli
The reader’s voice in the poem earlier shows a different re-lationship because the words “higher, higher, higher” were readboth with higher pitch and higher amplitude. Here
higher 
is also
louder 
. We explore in this article a different way of representing pitchin languages by presenting results of task-based elicitation withspeakers of Turkish, Farsi, and Zapotec. In each of these languages‘thick’ is used for low pitch and ‘thin’ for high pitch. Languageslike these challenge the universality of the verticality of pitch. Theselanguages also raise a further question pointed to by our anonymouspoetry reader. Do languages always organize
loud 
(high amplitude)together with high pitch? We will show through an analysis of Turkish,Farsi, and Zapotec vocabulary that in these languages
loud 
rathergoes together with
low pitch
and
quiet
with
high pitch
.
The Language of Sound
We collected data from speakers of Farsi (in Iran), Turkish (in Turkey),and Zapotec (in southern Mexico) using task-based elicitationmaterials (Majid 2007). Participants (twelve speakers of Turkish,thirteen speakers of Zapotec, thirteen speakers of Farsi) were askedto describe stimuli relevant to color, shape, texture, smell, taste,and sound. Our focus here is on the sound task, where speakersdescribed ten pairs of stimuli that were played on a computerthrough headphones. Sound pairs differed in one of three dimensions(loudness, pitch, and tempo). For each pair of stimuli, the two soundfiles were played back-to-back and then individually to elicit separatedescriptions for each sound. Participants were encouraged to givethe best description of each sound but were not stopped if they usedseveral terms for the same sound file.Our analyses indicate that the most frequent words used todescribe low pitch and high pitch were extended from the samedomain in the three languages. As the languages are not geneticallyrelated, this commonality cannot be explained through phylogeneticrelation nor can it be explained through areal affinity because whilecontact relationships have existed between Turkish and Farsi, theircontact with the Zapotec language family of Mesoamerica is notplausible.
Pitch Vocabulary in the Three Languages
While our primary focus here has been on the metaphoric languageof pitch, our analyses indicate that across our three languagesspeakers sometimes used the same vocabulary to describe bothpitch and amplitude in ways that were consistent across the threelanguages. We will present the pitch metaphors first and then willdescribe the ways that vocabulary used for pitch was also used foramplitude.Across our three languages, speakers used the
thickness
 metaphor to talk about pitch:
thick 
was used to describe low pitchand
thin
to describe high pitch. In all three languages
thick 
and

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