Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Olivier le Guen

The Language of Sound

This task explores natural, non-expert, metalanguage for sounds in the language under study. In English, for example, sound metalanguage is quite rich. We talk about unpleasant sounds as noise (in fact we have quite a range of terms for jarring, harsh, dissonant noises). We talk about loud vs. soft sounds, distinguish perceived pitch in terms of high and low tones, and talk about rythmic (temporal) properties in terms of fast or slow. The goal of this task is to investigate how languages encode sound – specifically (1) whether there is dedicated vocabulary for encoding simple sound contrasts and (2) how much consistency there is within a community in descriptions.


You must have completed Language of perception (pp. 10-21).
To conduct this task you need the audio “sound” files.


This Field Manual entry can be downloaded from the MPG Publication Repository:

The stimulus materials are not yet available for distribution.

How to cite this resource?

Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (2007). The language of sound. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 29-31). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468735.