SiR 2019 Sound Symbolism of Gender in Personal Names

Sound Symbolism of Gender in Personal Names

Supervisor: Prof. Yoonjung Kang,  UTSC French & Linguistics

We often think that the sounds of words bear only an arbitrary relationship to what they represent. Yet studies have found that abrupt, short, and low acoustic frequency sounds are overrepresented in male compared to female names in English (e.g., John vs. Mary) and that speakers rely on these tendencies to guess the gender of made-up names. This project explores such nonarbitrary connections between sound and gender (sound symbolism) in personal names in a variety of heritage languages spoken in GTA. The study will combine corpus- and experiment-based methods. The student scholars will gain training in various aspects of the linguistic research process. Some background in linguistics, computer programming, or a heritage language is desirable, but not required.