The terms high and low are spatial terms that are commonly used for categorizing space. Interestingly, when describing sounds we also often use the terms high and low. Referring to pitch in purely spatial terms therefore suggests a non-literal interpretation of the words high and low, as musical pitch in principle does not imply as partial location. It reflects a cognitive mapping of two different domains (space and pitch height),a state of affairs that is often referred to as a conceptual metaphor.
There are two main forms of sound: the physical sound and the conceptual sound. At present, the research about the physical sound shows that sound has a metaphorical representation. Does the conceptual sound has the metaphorical representation, as the physical sound? Thus, language describing auditory events provides an ideal opportunity to investigate spatial simulation effects in situations where the word is used in a non-literal context. Some researches about the text or sentences describing sounds and the spatial space have been found. However, there are some extra components in texts and sentences which may disturb the consistence effect between sound concepts and the spatial space. Words are different from texts and the sentences, with less images or other influential components. To know if the consistence effect between concepts and spatial space exactly exist, it is necessary to use the sound words as the experiment materials.
Two experiments were used to investigate the existence of the sound words’ vertical spatial metaphor. We use the priming paradigm with horizontal keyboard. In the experiments, we first present the sound words, then present a square or a circle on the 25% or the 75% of the screen. In experiment 1, the sound words are passively observed, participants were only asked to judge whether the shape present is square or circle. In experiment 2, participants will judge the pitch of the sound words first, then judge the shape. The experiment 1 found that the sound words firstly present didn’t promote the judgment of the shape in different vertical space. The experiment 2 found that the sound words with high pitch promoted the judgment of the top shape, the sound words with low pitch promoted the judgment of the bottom shape.
Metaphorical consistency effects only observed in the experiment 2 which the semantic of the words were deeply processed. That means the metaphor of the sound words is weak or unstable. The degree of imagery and the semantic access of the sound words may explain. Afterword questionnaire brought out that the sound words commonly consist a variety of imagery, but usually sound doesn’t occur first. It means that the activation of the vertical spatial metaphoric of sound words needs more explicit semantics in the sound dimension, that is, the sound words’ vertical metaphoric can only occur in the case of deep-level semantic processing.