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See also: synæsthesia



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From Ancient Greek σύν (sún, with) + αἴσθησις (aísthēsis, sensation), modeled after anaesthesia. Synchronically, syn- +‎ aesthesia.



synaesthesia (plural synaesthesias)

  1. (neurology, psychology) A neurological or psychological phenomenon whereby a particular sensory stimulus triggers a second kind of sensation.
    • 1984, William Gibson, Neuromancer,
      Into her darkness, a churning synaesthesia, where her pain was the taste of old iron, scent of melon, wings of a moth brushing her cheek.
    • 2002, Sean A. Day, What synaesthesia is (and is not), Paul Mc Kevitt, Seán Ó Nualláin, Conn Mulvihill (editors), Language, Vision and Music: Selected Papers from the 8th International Workshop on the Cognitive Science of Natural Language Processing, Galway, 1999, page 171,
      For example, I myself have a type of synaesthesia: The sounds of musical instruments will sometimes make me see colors, about a yard in front of me, each color specific and consistent with the particular instrument playing.
    • 2009, Graham Richards, Psychology: The Key Concepts, page 244,
      Synaesthesia can occur particularly powerfully during mescalin and LSD intoxication, and is often given mystical significance.
  2. The association of one sensory perception with, or description of it in terms of, another, unlike, perception that is not experienced at the same time.
    • 1963, Claude Lévi–Strauss, Structural Anthropology[1], New York: Basic Books, page 91:
      On a phonemic level, phenomena of synesthesia have often been described and studied. Practically all children and a good many adults—though for the most part adults will deny it—spontaneously associate sounds, whether phonemes or the timbre of musical instruments, with colors and forms.
    • 2007, Boris Wiseman, Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology, and Aesthetics, page 112,
      For one of the enigmatic features of synaesthesia is that, within a given cultural group, the kinds of associations made by specific subjects occur according to statistically verifiable recurring patterns. As Jakobson explains, ‘When we ask whether /i/ or /u/ is darker, testing such phonic oppositions as grave vs. acute, some of the subjects may respond that this question makes no sense to them, but hardly one will respond that /i/ is the darker of the two’ (1981:44).
  3. A literary or artistic device whereby one kind of sensation is described in the terms of another.
    • 2006, Stephen Bowkett, Boys and Writing, page 38,
      Linking moods with colours is one example of synaesthesia.
    • 2007, Roger Beebe, Jason Middleton, Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones, page 181,
      [] it may be stated that the concept of synaesthesia is instrumental for understanding music videos, since videos are based on the soundtrack′s visual associations.28


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