View Full Version : Synaesthasia

21-11-08, 19:12
A small part of the population experiences automatic linkage between senses (especially vision) and cognition (especially language). This phenomenon is known as synesthasia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaesthasia). Its most common form is associating colours to numbers or letters, something called grapheme-color synesthesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grapheme-color_synesthesia).

There are varying degree of synaesthasia, and at present it is estimated that the most common and mildest forms affects under 5% of the people. Synesthasia might have a genetic component and is suspected to be inherited by the maternal line through the X chromosome (like colour blindness).

I have personally associated colours to numbers and vowels since as long as I can remember. The vowel association is especially strong, but is linked first and foremost to the sounds, not to the letters. I have noticed this when I change the language in which I am thinking. French and English have more vowels than most other languages - 13 each, although only 3 in common, if we ignore the length of the sounds.

It's difficult to render this on a forum as I don't have the phonetic characters at my disposal. I will just write the 5 basic vowels found in Italian or Spanish + a few sounds easily rendered with German vowels :


For numbers it is the characters themselves that match a colour, not their names in various languages. Here is what numbers look like for me ("0" is white) :

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Colours may vary a slightly over time and depending on my mood, but only the shade. 2 will always be blue, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker, and 5 will never be blue, but red. Even numbers have cold colours while odd numbers have warm colours (+ black and grey, which I otherwise think of as cold colours). I have always had a preference for even numbers and cold colours in my mind (this however does not reflect my tastes for clothing or home decoration).

Here are words for colours in various languages with vowels that match my perception of colours.

White, Weiss
Groen (in Dutch)
Ki(iro), Geel
Rot, Rosso, Rojo
Brown, Braun, Bruin, Cha(iro)

Colours of musical notes (following the rainbow) :

do re mi fa sol la si

28-05-09, 15:27
Here is a new BBC article on Synaesthasia. Apparently we could all be synaesthetes to a certain extent.

BBC News : People may be able to taste words (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8070210.stm)