16. Mai 2023
Susanne M. Reiterer
Universität Wien, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
The phon-aesthetic attraction towards foreign languages - just stereotypes or hidden patterns?
Abstract: Recently there is an increasing interest into the rare and under-researched, almost “forgotten” field of phonaesthetics. Phonaesthetics studies the aesthetic pleasure listeners experience from exposure to the auditory dimension of speech (phonetic chill). Rooted in folk linguistics and widespread beliefs that some languages sound more beautiful than others, phonaesthetics uses empirical quantitative methods to capture and describe the psychological and acoustic correlates of the phonaesthetic experience.
Many people increasingly learn a foreign language out of mere pleasure, just enjoying the sound or melody of it. The Romance languages, especially French, Italian and Spanish, usually take the lead when people talk about attractive or even sexy-sounding languages or accents. In contrast, languages like German and Arabic are often considered harsh and unattractive because of their use of consonant clusters. Despite a wide public agreement on certain language attractiveness stereotypes, only little research can be found on this topic, either in the fields of psychology, linguistics or neuroaesthetics. We tried to fill this gap by investigating the question if stereotypes ("Latin lover effect") or inherent phonetic-acoustic universals drive these effects via a series of pilot experiments together with students of the University of Vienna (Phonaesthetics group Vienna, @phonaestheticsV).