Linguistic Synesthesia in Turkish: A Corpus-based Study of Crossmodal Directionality

Kumcu A.

Metaphor And Symbol, vol.36, no.4, pp.241-255, 2021 (AHCI)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 36 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/10926488.2021.1921557
  • Journal Name: Metaphor And Symbol
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Communication & Mass Media Index, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Psycinfo
  • Page Numbers: pp.241-255
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Linguistic synesthesia (or synesthetic/intrafield/crossmodal metaphor) refers to crossmodal instances in which expressions in different sensory modalities are combined as in the case of sweet (taste) melody (hearing). Ullmann was among the first to show that synesthetic transfers seem to follow a potentially universal hierarchy that goes from the so-called “lower” (i.e., touch, taste and smell) to “higher” senses (i.e., hearing and sight). Several studies across languages, cultures, domains and text types seem to support the hierarchy in linguistic synesthesia despite some crosslinguistic differences and varying explanations . To extend results to an underrepresented language and thus, to test the universality of the crossmodal hierarchy, 5,693 token cases of linguistic synesthesia in written and spoken Turkish were investigated using a general-purpose, large corpus. Token, type, and hapax legomena frequencies showed that although three backward and thus, hierarchy-inconsistent transfers (i.e., from taste to touch, from sight to smell and from sight to hearing) were more frequent than their hierarchy-consistent counterparts, forward transfers in the canonical direction were more frequent overall than the backward transfers in Turkish. We conclude that Turkish linguistic synesthesia complies with the hierarchy as a descriptive generalization. Results are discussed in comparison to the crossmodal use of sensory words in other languages.