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科学美国人60秒:这个词的形状是什么?

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Karen Hopkin: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Karen Hopkin.

凯伦·霍普金:这里是《科学美国人》的 60 秒科学。我是凯伦·霍普金。

Some words imitate the sounds made by the things they describe, like “buzz” or “hiss” or “zip.” For you language lovers, that’s called onomatopoeia. But what if the the way a word sounds could evoke some other feature of an object, like its shape? Well, a new study suggests not only that it can but that the same word can do so across multiple languages. The findings are in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. [Aleksandra Cwiek et al., The bouba/kiki effect is robust across cultures and writing systems.]

有些词会模仿它们所描述的事物发出的声音,例如“嗡嗡声”或“嘶嘶声”或“拉链声”。对于语言爱好者来说,这叫做拟声词。但是,如果一个词的发音方式可以唤起一个物体的一些其他特征,比如它的形状呢?好吧,一项新的研究表明,它不仅可以,而且可以跨语言使用。研究结果发表在英国皇家学会哲学汇刊B上。 [亚历山德拉·克维克 等人, bouba /kiki 效应在不同文化和书写系统中都很强大。]

The researchers were interested in studying the evolution of language ...

研究人员对语言的进化很感兴趣...

Marcus Perlman: Both the ancient origins of language going back hundreds of thousands of years ago or even millions of years ago and also the ongoing evolution of modern languages.

马库斯·帕尔曼:语言的古老起源可以追溯到数十万年前甚至数百万年前,而且现代语言也在持续演变。

Hopkin: Marcus Perlman, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. He says that, a century ago, linguists insisted that the words we assign to various objects and actions are essentially arbitrary and that words don’t necessarily resemble or sound like the things to which they refer.

霍普金:英国伯明翰大学讲师马库斯·帕尔曼表示,一个世纪前,语言学家坚持认为,我们赋予各种对象和行为的词本质上是任意的,词不一定像或听起来像他们所指的事物。

Perlman: There’s nothing doggy-sounding about the word dog or feline-sounding about the word cat.

帕尔曼:狗这个词听起来不像狗,猫这个词听起来也不像猫。

Hopkin: That makes sense because different languages have different words for the same thing. One person’s pup is another one’s perro.

霍普金:这是有原因的,因为不同的语言对同一事物有不同的表达。英国人的小狗pup(英语小狗崽),西班牙则是perro(西班牙语小狗崽)。

Perlman: But there’s a lot of evidence now suggesting that the arbitrariness doctrine is proving to be false.

帕尔曼:但是现在有很多证据表明,任意性原则是错误的。

Hopkin: Onomatopoeia is a case in point and so is sign language, which makes frequent use of gestures that resemble their referents, like tracing the tracks of tears as a symbol for crying. To further explore this connection between words and their meanings, Perlman and his colleagues turned to something called the bouba/kiki effect.

霍普金:象声词和手语就是一个很好的例子,手语经常使用与其所指对象相似的手势,比如追踪眼泪的痕迹表达的是哭泣的意思。为了进一步探索单词及其含义之间的这种联系,帕尔曼和他的同事们转向了一种叫做bouba / kiki效应的东西。

Aleksandra Cwiek: What it is about is that when you see two shapes—one looks like a cloud or like a flower, kind of roundish, and the other one is more spiky, maybe looks more like a star—and when you’re asked to say which one is bouba, you will be more likely to point to a rounded one and, for kiki, to a spiky one.

亚历山德拉·克维克:它的意义在于,当你看到两种形状——一种看起来像云或花,有点圆,另一种更尖,可能看起来更像星星——让你说出哪一个是bouba,您将更大概率指向那个圆形的,而kiki则指向另一个尖尖的。

Hopkin: Aleksandra Cwiek of the Leibniz-Center General Linguistics in Berlin. She says that if you were to look at the words bouba and kiki, which are totally made up, one possible explanation for the effect could be the appearance of the letters.

霍普金:柏林莱布尼茨通用语言学中心的亚历山德拉·克维克表示,当看到完全虚构的bouba和kiki时,一种可能的理解方式是字母的外观。

Cwiek: The shape of b-o-u-b-a, the shapes of those letters kind of evoke the sense of roundness. These letters are round.

克维克:b-o-u-b-a的形状,让人联想到圆润感,这些字母是圆形的。

Hopkin: But what happens when you don’t see the words but hear them? And does it matter what language the listener speaks?

霍普金:但是当你没有看到这些词,只是听到这两个词时又会怎样?和听者说什么语言有关系吗?

Cwiek: So we thought it would be a wonderful idea to just study bouba/kiki across the world.

克维克:所以我们认为在世界各地研究bouba / kiki是一个绝妙的主意。

Hopkin: With the help of 22 different collaborators, the researchers tested the bouba/kiki effect in 25 different languages from Albanian and Armenian all the way to Zulu—with Farsi, French and Finnish in between. Participants were told to look at the two shapes and then listen to the sound: either ...

霍普金:在 22 位不同的合作者的帮助下,研究人员测试了不同语言下的bouba / kiki效应——从阿尔巴尼亚语、亚美尼亚语、波斯语、法语、芬兰语......一直到祖鲁语的25 种语言。参与者看着两个形状,然后听声音,选择......

[CLIP: Bouba sound]

[bouba声音]

Hopkin: Or ...

霍普金斯:或者……

[CLIP: Kiki sound]

[kiki的声音]

Hopkin: Then they were asked, “Which shape corresponds to the sound?” Whether they were German ...

霍普金:然后他们被问到,“哪个形状与声音对应?” 无论他们是德国人...

Valerie Greger: Welche Form geh?rt zu welchem Klang? [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Valerie Greger:哪个形状与声音对应?

Hopkin: or Spanish ...

霍普金:还是西班牙语……

Dennise Dalma: ?Cual figura corresponde al sonido? [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Dennise Dalma: 哪个形状与声音对应?

Hopkin: Russian ...

霍普金:俄罗斯语...

Yuri Lazebnik: Для каждого слова которое вы сейчас услышите, укажите с какой из картинок оно у вас ассоциируется? [For each of the words that you are about to hear, indicate with which of the pictures you associate it.]

Yuri Lazebnik:对于您现在听到的每个单词,您会将其与哪些图片相关联?[对于您将要听到的每个单词,请指出您将其与哪些图片相关联。]

Hopkin: or Thai ...

霍普金斯:还是泰语……

Supatchaya Tongtheng: [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Supatchaya Tongtheng:哪个形状与声音对应?

Hopkin: Most participants said the rounder shape was bouba and the pointy one was kiki.

霍普金: 大多数参与者说,圆形的是bouba ,尖头的是kiki。

Perlman: This suggests that the effect is legit and does seem to be driven by some widely observed correspondence between the spoken words and the visual features of the shapes.

帕尔曼:这表明,这种效应是合理的,并且似乎是由一些广泛观察到的口语单词和形状的视觉特征之间的对应关系所驱动的。

Hopkin: There were some exceptions. Perlman says that speakers of Romanian, Turkish and Mandarin Chinese were more likely to make the reverse call (although my Turkish friend and her family fell squarely in the classic bouba/kiki camp).

霍普金:当然也有一些例外。尔曼表示,讲罗马尼亚语、土耳其语和汉语普通话的人更有可能做出相反的选择(尽管我的土耳其朋友和她的家人完全属于经典的bouba / kiki阵营)。

Beria Sunar: That blob looks like a bouba. Kiki has a sharp and spiky sound—like the spiky shape.

Beria Sunar:那个斑点看起来像bouba。Kiki的声音尖锐——就像尖尖的形状一样。

Hopkin: As to what that could mean about the evolution of language: imagine our early ancestors when they started using spoken words to refer to things.

霍普金:至于这对语言的进化意味着什么:想象一下我们的早期祖先开始使用口语来指代事物的时候。

Cwiek: They couldn’t say, “Listen, my friend, now we’re gonna call this new object a table.”

克维克:他们不能说,“听着,我的朋友,现在我们将把这个新对象称为桌子。”

Hopkin: So to get the conversation off the ground, they probably tried to come up with sounds that somehow evoked the object at hand.

霍普金:因此,为了让谈话脱离实际,他们可能试图想出一些声音,以某种方式称呼手头的物体。

Perlman: As a general principle, it might be that new words that are heard to resemble their referents in some way or another would have been more likely to be understood and adopted by a wider community of speakers.

帕尔曼:一般来讲,可能是在某些方面听来与其所指对象相似的新词,更有可能被更广泛的使用者群体理解和采用。

Hopkin: So if folks from far-flung cultures generally agree that bouba is bulbous while kiki is sharp ...

霍普金:所以,如果来自不同文化背景的人们普遍认为bouba是球状的,而kiki是尖锐的……

Cwiek: It shows us the potential of those correspondences to be to have been relevant at the very dawn of language—that, in fact, our ancestors could have relied upon those when establishing the first word forms.

克维克:它向我们展示了这些对应关系在语言诞生之初就具有相关性的潜力——事实上,我们的祖先在建立第一个词形时就可能依赖这些对应关系。

Hopkin: Cwiek says she’d like to explore the effects of other nonsense words—ones that use different consonants and vowel sounds ...

霍普金: 克维克表示,她还想探索其他无意义词的影响——那些使用不同辅音和元音的词......

Cwiek: But also testing real vocabularies of languages across these possible dimensions that evoke the sense of roundness or sharpness or maybe other sensations in us because that might bring us closer to how the first words came to be ...

克维克:但也要在这些可能的维度上测试真正的语言词汇,这些维度会唤起我们的圆润感、锐利感或其他感觉,因为这可能会让我们更接近第一个单词的形成方式......

Hopkin: Which means that bouba and kiki will not be the last word.

Hopkin:这意味着bouba和kiki不会是最后的定论。

Special thanks to my friends: [Valerie Greger, Dennise Dalma, Yuri Lazebnik, Supatchaya Tongtheng and Beria Sunar].

特别感谢我的朋友:[Valerie Greger, Dennise Dalma, Yuri Lazebnik, Supatchaya Tongtheng 和 Beria Sunar]。

For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Karen Hopkin.

《科学美国人》的 60 秒科学,凯伦·霍普金报道。

Karen Hopkin: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Karen Hopkin.

Some words imitate the sounds made by the things they describe, like “buzz” or “hiss” or “zip.” For you language lovers, that’s called onomatopoeia. But what if the the way a word sounds could evoke some other feature of an object, like its shape? Well, a new study suggests not only that it can but that the same word can do so across multiple languages. The findings are in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. [Aleksandra Cwiek et al., The bouba/kiki effect is robust across cultures and writing systems.]

The researchers were interested in studying the evolution of language ...

Marcus Perlman: Both the ancient origins of language going back hundreds of thousands of years ago or even millions of years ago and also the ongoing evolution of modern languages.

Hopkin: Marcus Perlman, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. He says that, a century ago, linguists insisted that the words we assign to various objects and actions are essentially arbitrary and that words don’t necessarily resemble or sound like the things to which they refer.

Perlman: There’s nothing doggy-sounding about the word dog or feline-sounding about the word cat.

Hopkin: That makes sense because different languages have different words for the same thing. One person’s pup is another one’s perro.

Perlman: But there’s a lot of evidence now suggesting that the arbitrariness doctrine is proving to be false.

Hopkin: Onomatopoeia is a case in point and so is sign language, which makes frequent use of gestures that resemble their referents, like tracing the tracks of tears as a symbol for crying. To further explore this connection between words and their meanings, Perlman and his colleagues turned to something called the bouba/kiki effect.

Aleksandra Cwiek: What it is about is that when you see two shapes—one looks like a cloud or like a flower, kind of roundish, and the other one is more spiky, maybe looks more like a star—and when you’re asked to say which one is bouba, you will be more likely to point to a rounded one and, for kiki, to a spiky one.

Hopkin: Aleksandra Cwiek of the Leibniz-Center General Linguistics in Berlin. She says that if you were to look at the words bouba and kiki, which are totally made up, one possible explanation for the effect could be the appearance of the letters.

Cwiek: The shape of b-o-u-b-a, the shapes of those letters kind of evoke the sense of roundness. These letters are round.

Hopkin: But what happens when you don’t see the words but hear them? And does it matter what language the listener speaks?

Cwiek: So we thought it would be a wonderful idea to just study bouba/kiki across the world.

Hopkin: With the help of 22 different collaborators, the researchers tested the bouba/kiki effect in 25 different languages from Albanian and Armenian all the way to Zulu—with Farsi, French and Finnish in between. Participants were told to look at the two shapes and then listen to the sound: either ...

[CLIP: Bouba sound]

Hopkin: Or ...

[CLIP: Kiki sound]

Hopkin: Then they were asked, “Which shape corresponds to the sound?” Whether they were German ...

Valerie Greger: Welche Form geh?rt zu welchem Klang? [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Hopkin: or Spanish ...

Dennise Dalma: ?Cual figura corresponde al sonido? [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Hopkin: Russian ...

Yuri Lazebnik: Для каждого слова которое вы сейчас услышите, укажите с какой из картинок оно у вас ассоциируется? [For each of the words that you are about to hear, indicate with which of the pictures you associate it.]

Hopkin: or Thai ...

Supatchaya Tongtheng: [Which shape corresponds to the sound?]

Hopkin: Most participants said the rounder shape was bouba and the pointy one was kiki.

Perlman: This suggests that the effect is legit and does seem to be driven by some widely observed correspondence between the spoken words and the visual features of the shapes.

Hopkin: There were some exceptions. Perlman says that speakers of Romanian, Turkish and Mandarin Chinese were more likely to make the reverse call (although my Turkish friend and her family fell squarely in the classic bouba/kiki camp).

Beria Sunar: That blob looks like a bouba. Kiki has a sharp and spiky sound—like the spiky shape.

Hopkin: As to what that could mean about the evolution of language: imagine our early ancestors when they started using spoken words to refer to things.

Cwiek: They couldn’t say, “Listen, my friend, now we’re gonna call this new object a table.”

Hopkin: So to get the conversation off the ground, they probably tried to come up with sounds that somehow evoked the object at hand.

Perlman: As a general principle, it might be that new words that are heard to resemble their referents in some way or another would have been more likely to be understood and adopted by a wider community of speakers.

Hopkin: So if folks from far-flung cultures generally agree that bouba is bulbous while kiki is sharp ...

Cwiek: It shows us the potential of those correspondences to be to have been relevant at the very dawn of language—that, in fact, our ancestors could have relied upon those when establishing the first word forms.

Hopkin: Cwiek says she’d like to explore the effects of other nonsense words—ones that use different consonants and vowel sounds ...

Cwiek: But also testing real vocabularies of languages across these possible dimensions that evoke the sense of roundness or sharpness or maybe other sensations in us because that might bring us closer to how the first words came to be ...

Hopkin: Which means that bouba and kiki will not be the last word.

Special thanks to my friends: [Valerie Greger, Dennise Dalma, Yuri Lazebnik, Supatchaya Tongtheng and Beria Sunar].

For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Karen Hopkin.
 


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