Sweet voice and round taste: Cross-sensory metaphors and linguistic variability
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How do we define a sound or a taste for which our language does not have a dedicated word?

Typically, we borrow words from another sensory modality. Wines, for example, are often described by words that belong to other sensory perceptions: a “soft flavour” borrows the adjective soft from the domain of touch, and a “round taste” borrows the adjective round from the domain of sight.

It remains an interesting open issue to what extent these cross-sensory metaphors are universal across languages, and to what extent they are language-specific.

Dr Francesca Strik Lievers will address these questions and provide an overview of the latest scientific discoveries in the field, using examples taken from different languages. Her talk will be followed by an opportunity for questions.

The event is organised and hosted by Creative Multilingualism, a research programme led by the University of Oxford and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Open World Research Initiative.

Participation is free and open to the public.


The speaker

Francesca Strik Lievers is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Genoa. Her main research interests are in figurative language and lexical semantics, with a focus on verbs and on the linguistic encoding of sensory experience. Working in Italy (Pisa, CNR, Milan-Bicocca) and at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, she has conducted extensive research on synaesthetic metaphors, in order to gain insight into the linguistic and perceptual mechanisms that may explain their behaviour.

The talk
Language offers a privileged angle to explore perception and the senses. Data from several languages show that there are striking cross-linguistic similarities both in the way individual senses are represented in the lexicon (for example, vision has a richer lexicon available than the other senses) and in the way different senses are associated.
This talk will address the question of sensory associations in language(s), focusing on synaesthetic metaphors. On the one hand, conventional synaesthetic metaphors that we use in our everyday language (like sweet smell, combining a taste adjective and an olfactory noun) appear to comply with strong cross-linguistic patterns, which may in part reflect the way our (multi)sensory perception works (e.g. taste and smell are closely intertwined in the perception of food). On the other hand, creative synaesthetic metaphors, often used in poetry, can associate virtually any sense with any other sense, thus highlighting the creative power of language, which can defy perceptual and conceptual boundaries.

Strik Lievers, F. & Winter, B. (2018). Sensory language across lexical categories, Lingua 204, 45-61.
Strik Lievers, F. (2017). Figures and the senses. Towards a definition of synaesthesia. Review of Cognitive Linguistics 15(1), 83-101.
Strik Lievers, F. (2015). Synaesthesia: A corpus-based study of cross-modal directionality. Functions of language 22(1), 69–94.
Date: 9 May 2018, 12:30 (Wednesday, 3rd week, Trinity 2018)
Venue: Ship Street Centre, 4 Ship Street OX1 3DA
Venue Details: Jesus College Ship Street Centre Lecture Theatre 3 Ship Street.
Speakers: Creative Multilingualism (University of Oxford ), Dr Francesca Strik Lievers (University of Genova, Italy)
Organising department: Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
Organiser: Creative Multilingualism (University of Oxford )
Organiser contact email address: marianna.bolognesi@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk
Booking required?: Required
Booking url: https://bit.ly/2HhcWfx
Cost: Free
Audience: Public
Editor: Marianna Bolognesi