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The central route emphasizes objective communication of information. The peripheral route relies on psychological techniques. These techniques may take advantage of a target’s not thinking carefully about the message. The process mirrors a phenomenon in animal behavior known as Eddie Bader Holdall Medium Black And Brown Black Brown nIJKVhnP3L
. These are sequences of behavior that occur in exactly the same fashion, in exactly the same order, every time they’re elicited. Cialdini ( Robert Clergerie Mepe Stretch Suede Tall Boot Blue 6109TnX
) compares it to a prerecorded tape that is turned on and, once it is, always plays to its finish. He describes it is as if the animal were turning on a tape recorder ( Dune Nixi Jeweeled Bow Mule Sandals Black Rsj000BmlR
). There is the feeding tape, the territorial tape, the migration tape, the nesting tape, the aggressive tape—each sequence ready to be played when a situation calls for it.

In humans fixed action patterns include many of the activities we engage in while mentally on "auto-pilot." These behaviors are so automatic that it is very difficult to control them. If you ever feed a baby, for instance, nearly everyone mimics each bite the baby takes by opening and closing their own mouth! If two people near you look up and point you will automatically look up yourself. We also operate in a reflexive, non-thinking way when we make many decisions. We are more likely, for example, to be less critical about medical advice dispensed from a doctor than from a friend who read an interesting article on the topic in a popular magazine.

A notable characteristic of fixed action patterns is how they are activated. At first glance, it appears the animal is responding to the overall situation. For example, the maternal tape appears to be set off when a mother sees her hungry baby, or the aggressive tape seems to be activated when an enemy invades the animal’s territory. It turns out, however, that the on/off switch may actually be controlled by a specific, minute detail of the situation—maybe a sound or shape or patch of color. These are the hot buttons of the biological world—what Cialdini refers to as “ Zucca Knee Length Dresses Blue Mn5ndN
” and biologists call “releasers.”

Humans are not so different. Take the example of a study conducted on various ways to promote a campus bake sale for charity ( Lanvin Zipped Hi Top Sneakers Grey 4COEAqIjSs
). Simply displaying the cookies and other treats to passersby did not generate many sales (only 2 out of 30 potential customers made a purchase). In an alternate condition, however, when potential customers were asked to "buy a cookie for a good cause" the number rose to 12 out of 30. It seems that the phrase "a good cause" triggered a willingness to act. In fact, when the phrase "a good cause" was paired with a locally-recognized charity (known for its food-for-the-homeless program) the numbers held steady at 14 out of 30. When a fictional good cause was used instead (the make believe "Levine House") still 11 out of 30 potential customers made purchases and not one asked about the purpose or nature of the cause. The phrase "for a good cause" was an influential enough hot button that the exact cause didn't seem to matter.

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Beyond Words - Language Blog

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on March 31, 2017

Scientific investigation is a slow process. Rarely are long-established ideas smashed with one individual research paper that causes everyone to turn their heads. The study of sound symbolism (also called phonosemantics) follows suit. One of the founding principles of modern linguistics, as put forward by Saussure, is the idea that sound is arbitrary: the combination of phonemes that make up the word ‘cat’ could just as easily be used to mean a dog, or a type of tree, or the feeling of elation.

This seems to hold true within individual languages. There’s nothing stopping one set of sounds from meaning any particular concept. Language is a constantly developing consensus.


But an increasing body of research is showing that there are tendencies for specific meanings to feature specific sounds more than others, in a way that cannot be explained by things like genetic relationships, areal features (features being spread across geographical areas), or borrowing. The latest, and perhaps largest, attempt to demonstrate this was published in PNAS with the title “Sound–meaning association biases evidenced across thousands of languages”. The authors looked at basic word lists from two thirds of the world’s six- or seven-thousand languages, and found statistically verifiable evidence that a number of key concepts, including physical properties and body parts, routinely are represented by words that use or avoid certain sounds.

It’s easy, when looking at the media snippets covering this paper, to say “English doesn’t have an ‘l’ in its word for tongue” and write off the research. The research, though, only points to a statistical tendency, and doesn’t pretend a 1:1 correlation. They are also very careful to be conservative, and not to generalize across the data.

Magnitude Sound Symbolism

Still, significant evidence for the Premiata White Mattew Sneakers Men Leather Nylon Rubber 40 Grey CzaWsI5DvH
(between languages) phonosemanticity of vocabulary like body parts is fairly new. Much more attested, since Sapir’s work on Native American languages, is physical descriptors, or what is known as magnitude sound symbolism. Across the world, words indicating smallness, intimacy, and a bunch of related concepts tend to have vowels like ‘ee’, while words meaning largeness tend to have open back vowels like ‘ahh’. Our intuitions about this have been demonstrated with invented words.

Some languages, like Japanese, Korean, and a wide variety of African languages, have systems of sound symbolism that form their own class. These are commonly called ideophones, and research has shown that they tend to be colloquialisms, emotions and otherwise artful vocabulary. ‘Pika-pika’ (meaning ‘shiny’ in Japanese) is one that English speakers are likely to be familiar with for being the catchphrase of Pikachu. All languages, it seems, have onomatopoeia, but for these languages, such words aren’t reserved just for child-like speech. In Japanese, speakers can even invent words to describe particular emotions or sensations that are correctly interpreted by others.

The applications are interesting, with evidence suggesting that such words in Japanese are easier for children and non-native speakers in general to pick up, and so should be taught early on to make language acquisition faster.

I started investigating for this article based on a sentence in one write-up that described the research on two-thirds of the world’s languages as “a study that shatters a cornerstone concept in linguistics”. Honestly, it doesn’t shatter Saussure’s concept of the arbitrariness of sound. That concept has been slowly scraped away and refined to something less generalist, and this research just helps solidify the linguistics field of sound symbolism.

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writes about endangered languages, sociolinguistics and related phenomena for ALTA Language Services. He is a linguist, photographer and writer with a passion for supporting endangered language communities. To this end, Paul has an MA in Language Documentation Description from SOAS and has worked with groups including language archives, teaching material developers and UNESCO.

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