To call a tree a “tree” is pure tradition. In English the tree is called “the tree”, in Spanish “the tree”, in the Chinese language “shu”. There are only a few words, like the German “Kuckuck”, where signs and meanings are connected – at least that’s the doctrine. But there is a well-known phenomenon that opposes it, says an international research group and justifies its hypothesis with new discoveries.
More than 20 linguists worked with a classic experimental setup: one picture for each dot with rounded features and one with pointed rivets, as well as the words “boba” and “kiki”. Test subjects should indicate which word belongs to which image. Most of them assigned “boba” to the round shape and “kiki” to the rough shape. Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler reported on this phenomenon as early as the mid-20th century using other artificial words, “maluma” and “takete” as examples. A similar effect occurs with first names such as “Bob” and “Kirk”.
Now the team is about Alexandra Schwik of the Leibniz Center for General Linguistics in Berlin Show the effect in nine language families. Over 900 men and women from 25 different mother languages and ten different writing systems were represented, for example Armenian, Georgian, Japanese, and Korean. In this way, the researchers were able to test whether the “boba-kiki effect” might not be due to the spoken sound, but rather to the letters “b” and “k”. Because not every text represents a sound with a round symbol and one with a square symbol.
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