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Synesthesia in a sentence from James Joyce's Ulysses (1922)


In semantics and cognitive linguistics, a metaphorical process by which one sense modality is described or characterized in terms of another, such as "a bright sound" or "a quiet color." Adjective: synesthetic.

See also:


From the Greek, "perceive together"

Examples and Observations:

  • "An expression such as 'warm color' is a classic example of a synesthetic expression. It involves the mapping from the tactile sense referred to by the adjective warm onto the visual referred to by the noun color. On the other hand, warm breeze is not a synesthetic expression, because both warm and breeze refer to the tactile sense, and there is no 'sensory mismatch' in this expression as one sees in warm color."
    (Yoshikata Shibuya et al., "Understanding Synesthetic Expressions: Vision and Olfaction With the Physiological=Psychological Model." Speaking of Colors and Odors, ed. by Martina Plümacher and Peter Holz. John Benjamins, 2007)

  • "I see a sound. KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. It looks like KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. It looks like gravity ripping. It looks like the jets on a spaceship.

    "I catch the sound and it takes me into the cold."
    (Emily Raboteau, The Professor's Daughter. Henry Holt, 2005)

  • "I hear the bouncing hills
    Grow larked and greener at berry brown
    Fall and the dew larks sing
    Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
    More spanned with angles ride
    The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
    Holier then their eyes,
    And my shining men no more alone
    As I sail out to die."
    (Dylan Thomas, final verse of "Poem on His Birthday")

  • "I am hearing the shape of the rain
    Take the shape of the tent and believe it . . .."
    (James Dickey, opening lines of "The Mountain Tent")

  • "Meaning may be transferred from one sensory faculty to another (synesthesia), as when we apply clear, with principal reference to sight, to hearing, as in clear-sounding. Loud is transferred from hearing to sight when we speak of loud colors. Sweet, with primary reference to taste, may be extended to hearing (sweet music), smell ("The rose smells sweet"), and to all senses at once (a sweet person). Sharp may be transferred from feeling to taste, and so may smooth. Warm may shift its usual reference from feeling to sight, as in warm colors, and along with cold may refer in a general way to all senses, as in a warm (cold) welcome."
    (John Algeo and Thomas Pyles, The Origins and Development of the English Language, 5th ed. Thompson, 2005)

  • "Many of the metaphors we use every day are synesthetic, describing one sensory experience with vocabulary that belongs to another. Silence is sweet, facial expressions are sour. Sexually attractive people are hot; sexually unattractive people leave us cold. A salesman's patter is smooth; a day at the office is rough. Sneezes are bright; coughs are dark. Along with pattern recognition, synesthesia may be one of the neurological building blocks of metaphor."
    (James Geary, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See. HarperCollins, 2011)
Also Known As: linguistic synesthesia, metaphorical synesthesia
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