Does Language Influence the Vertical Representation of Auditory Pitch and Loudness?
Fernandez-Prieto I., Spence C., Pons F., Navarra J.
Higher frequency and louder sounds are associated with higher positions whereas lower frequency and quieter sounds are associated with lower locations. In English, "high" and "low" are used to label pitch, loudness, and spatial verticality. By contrast, different words are preferentially used, in Catalan and Spanish, for pitch (high: "agut/agudo"; low: "greu/grave") and for loudness/verticality (high: "alt/alto"; low: "baix/bajo"). Thus, English and Catalan/Spanish differ in the spatial connotations for pitch. To analyze the influence of language on these crossmodal associations, a task was conducted in which English and Spanish/Catalan speakers had to judge whether a tone was higher or lower (in pitch or loudness) than a reference tone. The response buttons were located at crossmodally congruent or incongruent positions with respect to the probe tone. Crossmodal correspondences were evidenced in both language groups. However, English speakers showed greater effects for pitch, suggesting an influence of linguistic background.