Consonant Sound Symbolism in Dietary Supplement Product Names

dc.contributor.advisorWeinberger, Steven
dc.contributor.authorShenkar, Julia
dc.creatorShenkar, Julia
dc.description.abstractThe linguistic term “sound symbolism” refers to the inherent sound-to-meaning correspondences that appear to exist in language. According to sound symbolic theory, minimal elements of language, such as phonemes and syllables, are capable of evoking larger concepts usually communicated through complete lexical items. In other words, the mere sounds that make up a language can evoke feelings, impressions of attributes such as size, gender, and color, or abstract ideas. As such, sound symbolism is often employed in the creation of product names to enhance marketing efforts and to emphasize product qualities or intended purpose. This study examines sound symbolism in dietary supplement product names, particularly focusing the possible English C/l/ clusters (bl, fl, gl, kl, pl, sl), and the corresponding singletons (b, f, g, k, p, s). In this study, 261 participants were asked to rank possible names for two fictional dietary supplement products: a joint health supplement and a hair, skin, and nails supplement. Product names varied in word-initial onset (C/l/ or C), as well as two possible endings, one based on the product’s main ingredient and the other based on the product’s marketed benefit, respectively. Each ending was paired with each onset (C/l/+ingredient, C/l/+benefit, C+ingredient, and C+benefit), resulting in a total of 24 possible names. Participants ranked names, presented in four groups of six for each product, and ultimately selected the best name from their top choices. Results show that, although phonetic symbolism was certainly a motivator of choice, consumers, when primed with a marketing claim, will more frequently pull associations from the inventories of their established lexicons, rather than their phonological inventories.
dc.subjectSound symbolism
dc.subjectProduct marketing
dc.subjectConsonant clusters
dc.subjectDietary supplements
dc.titleConsonant Sound Symbolism in Dietary Supplement Product Names
dc.typeThesis Mason University's of Arts in English


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