Vowel space and the colour circle

Illustration of how colour space is mapped onto vowel space based on the findings for >1100 participants in Cuskley, Dingemanse et al. 2019. Red usually goes with back vowels like /a/, while light hues like yellow and green go with front vowels like /i/ and darker hues go with /u/ and /o/. None of this is deterministic: associations vary across people and this just represents one of the most common solutions on average. Made by MD for the classroom materials in Van Leeuwen & Dingemanse 2022.

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. Download
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. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7 Download

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. Download
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. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7 Download

Vowel-colour associations

Vowel-colour associations for 1164 participants (central panel), showing, clockwise from bottom left, (a) a participant with very low structure yet high consistency across trials, probably a false positive synaesthete, (b) a typical nonsynaesthete with mappings that are both inconsistent and unstructured; (c) a middling participant with significant structure but inconistent choices across trials; (d) a highly structured but inconsistent participant; and (e) a typical vowel-colour synaesthete, with highly structured, consistent and categorical mappings.

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. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7 Download

Known cross-modal associations to vowels

Diagram of attested cross-modal mappings to linguistic sound represented on typical vowel space. (Figure by first author Gwilym Lockwood.)

Lockwood, G., & Dingemanse, M. (2015). Iconicity in the lab: a review of behavioural, developmental, and neuroimaging research into sound-symbolism. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(1246), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01246 Download