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Size–Sound Symbolism Revisited
This page contains sound files discussed in the paper,
and graphs abstracted from them
version of last section
Figure 1 Spectrogram of the syllables /ba/, /da/ and /ga/, uttered by myself.
Figure 3 Hand-painted spectrograms of the syllables ba, da, ga.
The ba--da--ga pitch continuum of F2 is divided into 14 steps instead of three.
The two parallel regions of black indicate regions of energy concentration, F1 and F2.
Notice that the onset frequency of F2 of da is higher than that of ba;
and the onset frequency of F2 of ga is higher than that of da.
I wish to illustrate these two modes of listening through two series of sound stimuli from an unpublished demo tape by Terry Halwes. Listen to the series in figure 3, and see whether you hear the change from [ba] to [da], from [da] to [ga] occur suddenly.
ba, da, ga
Let us isolate the second formant transition, that piece of sound which differs across the series, and listen to just those sounds alone.
Glides and whistles
Listen to Peter Ladefoged producing an utterance in which there are no words, but in which the speaker sounds contented
Listen to Peter Ladefoged producing an utterance in which there are no words, but in which the speaker sounds upset or angry. Notice that it has slightly smaller peaks than in Figure 4, but they are sharper, without the rounded tops, and the "sentence" as a whole has an increasing pitch. The voice range is considerably lower, and the voice has a grating, harsh quality
Listen to Peter Ladefoged's producing the words heed, hid, head, had, hod, hawed, whispered
Listen to Peter Ladefoged producing the words had, head, hid, heed in a creaky voice
Notice in Figure 8 the first formant's descending pitch sequence, and the second formant's rising pitch sequence. The creaky-voice reading focuses attention on the descending first formant, the whispered reading on the rising second formant. Here the whispered sequence too goes down, because the same words occur in a reverse order. On comparing Figure 8 to Figure 7, the masking of the formants by the creaky noise becomes conspicuous.
A bass singer need not be thick. Look at the photo of Samuel Ramsey, from the brochure of Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov, who sings Pimen's part, one of the most illustrious bass parts in the opera literature.
Listen to the first few bars of Pimen's soliloquy sung by Samuel Ramsey, against the following setting:
Night. A cell in the Chudov monastery. Father Pimen is writing by the light of an oil lamp. Grigory is asleep.
Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado. Sony:S3K 58 977
This is a photo of the great soprano Margaret Price from the brochure of Tristan und Isolde, Deutsche Grammophon 413 315-2
Listen to a short passage from Isolde's last, "Liebestod" scene, sung by Margaret Price:
major-minor sound files
Appendix: On Major / Minor Keys