A study of musical timbre semantics was conducted with listeners from two different linguistic groups. In two separate experiments, native Greek and English speaking participants were asked to describe 23 musical instrument tones of variable pitch using a predefined vocabulary of 30 adjectives. The common experimental protocol facilitated the investigation of the influence of language on musical timbre semantics by allowing for direct comparisons between linguistic groups. Data reduction techniques applied to the data of each group revealed three salient semantic dimensions that shared common conceptual properties between linguistic groups namely: luminance, texture, and mass. The results supported universality of timbre semantics. A correlation analysis between physical characteristics and semantic dimensions associated: i) texture with the energy distribution of harmonic partials, ii) thickness (a term related to either mass or luminance) and brilliance with inharmonicity and spectral centroid variation, and iii) F0 with mass or luminance depending on the linguistic group.
- Received November 12, 2012.
- Accepted July 5, 2013.
- © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California