I have a friend who has a slight issue with what she calls “synesthesia”. Well, perhaps it’s not synesthesia, but rather a strong sense memory. She actually gave me a bottle of body wash once because she couldn’t use it because of the memory it evokes. When I think of synesthesia, I think of it as related to this old school game called Rez:
I was always sad that I didn’t get to play it, but from what I’ve seen of it, it looks amazing like some crazy experience combining music and visuals (and tactile experiences using the Trance Vibrator (only in Japan)). Apparently it’s been released for the Xbox Live Arcade, so I might look into purchasing it for my brother. Using this as an example, I like to think of synesthesia as having your wires crossed – you see music, you taste sounds, you smell colors, etc. It’s not enough to say that your senses are heightened or that they evoke a memory – if anything, that’s pretty common place (for example, take Proust – A Remembrance of Things Past/À la recherche du temps perdu and the tea/madeleine memory)
In any case, back to the point of this post: synesthesia as a connector between languages. A recent New Scientist article suggests that the way words are spelled implies a connection to how we view a word. For example, there is something in the way the word “apple” sounds that evokes an image of the apple. This is a poor example, as we already have an association to the word apple and the image of the apple. However, think of what happened when we first created words. We create a memory and a connection to the word and it’s image. Perhaps this image is just the corporeal form of the apple. But what if this connection we create has something to do with the smell of the fruit, or the taste of the fruit. At this point, we aren’t just calling it an apple because it looks like one, but rather it reminds us of one.
Given the existence of loanwords (words borrowed from other languages) I wonder if we can say that these loanwords have a synesthetic connection to the idea of the object described? Can anyone think of a loanword and the object that it is associated with? Is there something about that word that lead to it’s usage, rather than the creation of a new word?
I find this fascinating and often wonder why I never took a psychology class – I’d love to study the idea of memory and it’s creation. There was a class offered at SJSU about language and memory and the creation of language. If only I had the time to take that class, I would have been ALL over it…
Synesthesia and the origins of language – Boing Boing.