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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Timbre exists at the confluence of the physical and the perceptual, and due to inconsistencies between these frames, it is notoriously hard to describe. This chapter examines the relationship between timbre and language, offering a critical review of theoretical and empirical thought on timbre semantics and providing a preliminary cognitive linguistic account of timbre description. It first traces the major conceptual and methodological advances in psychological timbre research since the 1970s with a focus on the mediating role of verbalization in previous paradigms. It then discusses the cognitive mechanisms underlying how listeners map timbral qualities onto verbal attributes. Applying a cognitive linguistic approach, the chapter concludes that timbre description may reflect certain fundamental aspects of human embodiment, which may help account for certain trans-historical and cross-cultural consistencies in descriptive practices.

Keywords: timbre perception, cognitive linguistics, semantics, psychoacoustic methods, conceptual metaphor, synesthesia

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