Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia: linguistic and conceptual factors

Jamie Ward, Julia Simner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This study documents an unusual case of developmental synaesthesia, in which speech sounds induce an involuntary sensation of taste that is subjectively located in the mouth. JIW shows a highly structured, non-random relationship between particular combinations of phonemes (rather than graphemes) and the resultant taste, and this is influenced by a number of fine-grained phonemic properties (e.g. allophony, phoneme ordering). The synaesthesia is not found for environmental sounds. The synaesthesia, in its current form, is likely to have originated during vocabulary acquisition, since it is guided by learned linguistic and conceptual knowledge. The phonemes that trigger a given taste tend to also appear in the name of the corresponding foodstuff (e.g. /I/, /n/ and /s/ can trigger a taste of mince /mIns/) and there is often a semantic association between the triggering word and taste (e.g. the word blue tastes "inky"). The results suggest that synaesthesia does not simply reflect innate connections from one perceptual system to another, but that it can be mediated and/or influenced by a symbolic/conceptual level of representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-61
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Speech
  • Taste Disorders


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