Vowel-colour associations

L: The vowel space with colour associations by a synaesthete. R: The same vowels displayed according to tongue position when produced. Visualization: Christine Cuskley & Mark Dingemanse. For an interactive version of this visual, see here.

van Leeuwen, T., & Dingemanse, M. (2022). Samenwerkende zintuigen. In S. Dekker & H. Kause (Eds.), Wetenschappelijke doorbraken de klas in! (pp. 85–116). Wetenschapsknooppunt Radboud Universiteit. PDF
Cuskley, C., Dingemanse, M., Kirby, S., & van Leeuwen, T. M. (2019). Cross-modal associations and synesthesia: Categorical perception and structure in vowel–color mappings in a large online sample. Behavior Research Methods, 51(4), 1651–1675. doi: 10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7 PDF

Rolling /r/ around the world

Map accompanying news coverage of our study of the link between /r/ and rough textures. The red data points represent languages that often feature /r/ in words with words for rough textures but not words for smooth textures. Blue data points, much rarer, are cases where the pattern is the reverse. The map shows that overwhelmingly, languages prefer to express rough meanings with /r/ sounds (if they have them).

Winter, B., Sóskuthy, M., Perlman, M., & Dingemanse, M. (2022). Trilled /r/ is associated with roughness, linking sound and touch across spoken languages. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 1035. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-04311-7 PDF

Shooing words

Shooing words —words that people use to chase away chickens— turn out to be highly similar across unrelated languages. These illustrations by Josje van Koppen accompanied a write-up about my serendipitous finding in popular science magazine Onze Taal.

The actual table from my paper looks a lot less exciting, but it does contain additional information about language families and about words for ‘chicken’ in the same set of languages. The basic conclusions is that words for ‘shoo’, but not ‘chicken’, show strong convergence towards sibilant sounds in 17 languages from 11 unrelated language families.

Illustrations from: Renckens, Erica. “‘Ksst!’ Het Lokken En Wegjagen van Dieren.” Onze Taal, 2020.

Dingemanse, M. (2020). Recruiting assistance and collaboration: a West-African corpus study. In S. Floyd, G. Rossi, & N. J. Enfield (Eds.), Getting others to do things: A pragmatic typology of recruitments (pp. 369–421). Language Science Press. PDF

The space between our heads

Not strictly a scientific visualization, and not by me. Still included here because it is a compelling illustration of the central point of this essay on brain-to-brain interfaces, which deals with naïve ideas about a cyberpunk future in which we’d be connected by wires instead of words. (Source of the image is Technology Review, who got it from shutterstock.)

Dingemanse, M. (2020). Der Raum zwischen unseren Köpfen. Technology Review, 2020(13), 10–15. PDF
Dingemanse, M. (2017). Brain-to-brain interfaces and the role of language in distributing agency. In N. J. Enfield & P. Kockelman (Eds.), Distributed Agency (pp. 59–66). Oxford University Press. PDF

Playful iconicity

Illustration accompanying news coverage in NRC of our paper on playful iconicity: when words sound like what they mean. By Jet Peters.

Dingemanse, M., & Thompson, B. (2020). Playful iconicity: structural markedness underlies the relation between funniness and iconicity. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 203–224. doi: 10.1017/langcog.2019.49 PDF

Which words are the same across languages?

Illustration made by Frank Landsbergen for a piece on universal words I wrote for a popular science book. It covers three types of words that, each for their own reason, come out similarly across languages. The three types are: (i) interactional tools (huh? for repair, oh! for a news receipt); (ii) expressive interjections (au for ‘ouch’); and (iii) onomatopoeia (bam ‘BAM’).

Simplifying somewhat, interactional tools are similar across languages because the ecology they live in (the rapid-fire turn-taking of conversation) provides the same selective pressures across languages; a case of convergent cultural evolution. Expressive interjections may go back to ancestral vocalizations also found in our close evolutionary relatives. And onomatopoeia come out similarly to the extent that they imitate the same kinds of sounds.

Dingemanse, M. (2014). Welk woord is in elke taal hetzelfde? In S. Deurloo (Ed.), Waarom drinken we zoveel koffie? 101 slimme vragen (pp. 159–161). Kennislink. PDF
Dingemanse, M. (2023). Interjections. In E. van Lier (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Word Classes. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/ngcrs PDF
Dingemanse, M. (2017). On the margins of language: Ideophones, interjections and dependencies in linguistic theory. In N. J. Enfield (Ed.), Dependencies in language (pp. 195–202). Language Science Press. PDF