Sound-Symbolism is Disrupted in Dyslexia: Implications for the Role of Cross-Modal Abstraction Processes


Research into sound-symbolism has shown that people can consistently associate certain pseudo-words with certain referents; for instance, pseudo-words with rounded vowels and sonorant consonants are linked to round shapes, while pseudo-words with unrounded vowels and obstruents (with a non-continuous airflow), are associated with sharp shapes. Such sound-symbolic associations have been proposed to arise from cross-modal abstraction processes. Here we assess the link between sound-symbolism and cross-modal abstraction by testing dyslexic individuals’ ability to make sound-symbolic associations. Dyslexic individuals are known to have deficiencies in cross-modal processing. We find that dyslexic individuals are impaired in their ability to make sound-symbolic associations relative to the controls. Our results shed light on the cognitive underpinnings of sound-symbolism by providing novel evidence for the role —and disruptability— of cross-modal abstraction processes in sound-symbolic effects.

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