Iconic Prosody is Rooted in Sensori-Motor Properties: Fundamental Frequency and the Vertical Space

AbstractThe iconic cross-modal correspondence between fundamental frequency and location in vertical space ("high is up") has long been described in the literature. However, an explanation for this relationship has not been proposed. We conducted an experiment in which participants shot at cans projected on the wall in different vertical positions. We found that mean fundamental frequency was significantly influenced by vertical head position. Moving the head upwards changes the position of the larynx, which pulls on the cricothyroid muscle and changes the fundamental frequency. We thus propose that the iconic relationship between fundamental frequency and vertical space is grounded in the body.

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