Study: Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names.

air analogue black and white business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This caught my interest as having a non-cultural name, it stands out. My racial background stands out. In naming Fleur, we wanted something that stood out but wasn’t so strange as to be offputting.

We use a variety of techniques to make sounds that are used to comprise noises. A sonorant has a continuous free-flow tone and is like a vowel or /m/ or /l/ -like sound.

Apparently, certain sounds are associated with certain kinds of things called “sound symbolism.” This is interesting because maybe certain things have certain names not because the name has been passed down through generations but because our brain gravitates to the sounds for the name.

This paper is a look at associations related to phonemes and first names and personality. This sounds kind of astrological to me. The good news they are using Big Five + Honesty-Humility not MBTI.

  1. Participants chose a name containing sonorant or voiceless stops for specific personality traits. Given the this or that, it reveals leanings of a forced binary choice, one of the failings of MBTI. There is no option for a neutral feeling, which might be the most likely choice. Names with sonorants were judged to belong to people who are higher on Emotionality, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
  2. In the next experiment, they presented a single name at a time and used a Likert scale to measure the responses. The effect was still present.
  3. In the third experiment, they had people take the HEXACO personality test, then compared to the phonetic transcription of their name. They didn’t find much of a relationship.
  4. They moved sounds around to make up names. This eliminates the possible associations with real people as a possible confound. The effect persisted only now Honesty-Humility showed up as higher and Extraversion lower.
  5. In the final experiment, they were looking to remove likability as a confound.

Sidhu, D. M., Deschamps, K., Bourdage, J. S., & Pexman, P. M. (2019). Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(9), 1595-1614 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000662

Baby cadence

The baby babble took an interesting turn with these monologues that remind me of… well, there is no good way to say it… but, I really don’t want to… so, here goes… Hitler.

She has the cadence down. The cadence sounds German and very, very passionate about whatever it is that is the subject of her monologue.

English is at its core a Germanic language. It is named for the Angles who were a Germanic tribe who migrated to the island that is now the home of England. Another major influence comes from the Saxons who were another Germanic tribe. Frisian provided yet another Germanic influence. William the Conqueror brought a French influence so the royal court spoke it while the commoners spoke English, but eventually, the two merged into modern English.

Guess this makes me wonder if most English speaking kids go through an oratory phase like this? Or is this cadence thing more universal such that all kids speak something similar?