• Rezultati Niso Bili Najdeni

6. Research design and methodology

6.1 Nejc’ s answers

Nejc quickly adapted to the unique context of questioning, more so since we had already had a short discussion about his synaesthetic experiences 2 months prior to the interview. At certain times he had to take a bit longer (5-10 seconds) to truly focus and express his thoughts on the detailed questions regarding examples, since this was not a regular interview and demanded a hefty amount of self-reflection, description, and explanation. Over the course of the interview, we had to return to some of the “calibrating” questions, because new info was gathered about certain perceptions and their exceptions, which he had not thought of at the beginning of the interview.

To verify the authenticity of his grapheme-colour synaesthesia, I tested him three times in the span of three months. The test included a fast oral questioning of the letter colours in a mixed order and involving repetitions of letters. There were only three letters with differences in colour between the first and the second test, with Nejc saying they were blue at first and then a month later that they were yellow.

Nejc does not actively use his synaesthetic experiences in his learning strategies when learning a new language. However, this examination of his perceptions of the letters and words did make him think that it might be very useful if utilized along his other strategies belonging to his already preferable visual style of learning. He listened very intently to my explanations of my own experiences with the synaesthetic perceptions, and how I employ them into my learning of new

34 vocabulary and grammar. Thus, I believe that synaesthete learners would really benefit from listening to other synaesthetes’ tips for learning and procure their own unique learning strategy connecting dual coding of perceptual information and mental imagery.

Nejc’s alphabet colouring has diversity, but it is not strong. There is a supremacy of green (“j”,

“k”, “l”, “q”, “u”) and yellow (“c”, “e”, “o”, “t”, “y”, “z”) tints (letter “d” is yellowish green), followed by red (“a”, “b”, “p”, “r”), orange (“f”, “g”), white/transparent (“i”, “x”), purple (“m”,

“v”), brown (“h”), blue (“n”), pink (“s”) and black (“w”).

Nejc experiences a whole-word colour effect when perceiving whole written words, not focusing on the letters separately. The dominant letter whose colour is spread out over the whole word is largely the first letter in the word, regardless if it is a consonant or a vowel (see figure 13), however, if that colour is too weak in its intensity (for example the white letter “i”), the colour of the following letter often takes over (see figure 14).

Furthermore, if the colour of a word’s mental image overlaps with the word’s letter colours, these letters might in some cases stand out more and affect the whole-word colour. For example, in the

Figure 12 Nejc's alphabet colours

Figure 14 An example of how the whole-word colour is affected by the yellow second letter “c”, since “i” is white.

Figure 13 On the left are letters coloured as seen separately in a word. On the right are the words coloured as seen with the whole-word colour effect. Both vowels and consonants have the same power over the effect when in initial position.

35 word “teaspoon”, by all accounts of his whole-word colour calibration, the word should be coloured yellow; however, Nejc’s mental image of a teaspoon involves an image of a teacup filled with reddish tea, which makes the red “a” and “p” stand out, and thus affects the whole-word colour (see Figure 15).

As far as Nejc’s awareness of affixes in polymorphemic words is concerned, my observation shows that he notices prefixes normally; they also affect the whole-word colour (unless the prefix is pale (e.g. “-il”), in which case the following letter has the colour dominance (see example

“illegal” in figure 16)).

Suffixes are seldom distinguished by colour immediately, unless more focus is involved. For example, Nejc was able to distinguish “-ed” quickly without much focus, but not “-ing”, “-able”

or “-ly” (see figure16), which remained concealed by the whole-word colour effect. At this point, I must stress that by saying that he did not perceive any of those two suffixes’ colours, does not mean that he was not aware of the word changing its form and meaning. He is indeed still aware

Figure 16 Prefixes affect the whole-word colour (“un-”), unless the initial letter is a pale colour (white “i” in “illegally”).

Figure 15 On the left is an example of the letters’ separate colours in the word; on the right above is an example of how Nejc would see the word if the initial yellow letter directed the whole-word colour; below is Nejc’s actual perception of the word with the whole-word colour effect affected by the mental image of reddish tea.

36 of the suffixes at the ends of words, but his brain does not immediately notice them due to the focus naturally staying on the first part of the word while reading.

Since Nejc was able to discern the yellow suffix “-ed” from the whole-word colour, I tried to see whether and how he would notice it in a word with a yellow whole-word colour. It is intriguing how in the case of “disinterested”, the base “interest” with the initial white letter resists the whole-word yellow colour and is separated from the yellow affixes by a pale yellow colour (see figure17). On the other hand, in the example “imbalanced”, the “-ed” is in stark contrast with the purple whole-word colour, perhaps due to the preceding yellow letter “c”.

Compound words are no exception to the whole-word colour effect. Nejc’s focus does not break the word apart in the way that would divide the whole-word colour. For example, “grandmother”

is wholly orange and not orange-purple; and “nobody” is only blue and not blue-red. What is interesting is the scope of the mental imagery effect on the word’s colour perception. The mental images of the compound words affected the whole-word colour immensely: “sunglasses” was yellow, “firework” red, and “makeup” black.

The shift in focus in homographs did not change the whole-word colour effect, which was to be expected from the way he could not immediately perceive any other morphemes except the initial ones in polymorphemic words (except for “-ed”). Therefore, “ínvalid” and “inválid” were both perceived white-blueish, and “cónvict” and “convíct” were yellow.

Figure 18 Compound words are not seen in two separate colours of the constituents.

Figure 17 The suffix “-ed” stays distinguishably yellow even in the case of a word having a whole-word yellow colour.

37 Gemination or doubling of letters in words creates a more intense and larger area of the letter’s colour in the word, making it stand out more. Nejc admitted that he never had any problems with writing such words, because the intensity of the doubled letters’ colour is always memorable.

However, if the doubled letters are a weak colour, surrounded by more intense colours, they could become invisible and become a cause of spelling errors. Of course, this has effect in two instances: first, the colour intensity is perceived only after focusing on it (disregarding the whole-word colour effect), and secondly, if the colour intensity takes over the whole-whole-word colour effect.

Another result which can happen with more intensely coloured doubled letters, is that they affect the whole-word colour. For example (see figure 21), the word “terror” should theoretically be perceived by Nejc as yellow due to the yellow “t” in the initial position (also followed by yellow

“e”). However, the redness of the doubled “r” in the middle of the word is more intense, combined with another “r” at the end of the word, which in a way seals the whole word in red colour.

Figure 20 Gemination or doubling of letters creates an area of more intense colour in the word. In the example “illegal”, is an example of additional power of letter gemination following the first letter, thus affecting the whole-word colour even more.

Figure 19 Accent change in homographs do not affect the whole-word colour.

Figure 21 Nejc's perception of the word “terror”. The top example shows the whole-word colour perception of the word which should exist in theory. The second one shows the area of double “r”’s effect of red colour. The last example is the actual representation of Nejc’s perception of the word.

38 Capitalization of letters results in the letters being perceived as having a more intense colour and covering a larger area.

Nejc perceives silent letters normally: the pronunciation has no effect on the synaesthetic experiences. Therefore whole-word colour of the word “knee” is green due to the letter “k”, and not blue due to “n”. When the silent letter is not in the initial place in the word, it is perceived the same as the others; there is no noticeable weakness of colour intensity.

The same cannot be said of function words, which are perceived as less intense in colour than lexical words when included in a sentence. The example sentence was “The dog ran after the ball and caught it,” (see figure 22) where it is coloured according to Nejc’s synaesthetic perceptions.

The article “the” is much paler yellow colour, also affected by the brown “h”. The dummy “it” is already white/ see-through due to the letter “i” (strangely, the following yellow letter “t” has no effect on it). The conjunction “and” becomes pale red, even though the redness of the letter “a”

would in all other cases of lexical words stand out brightly when in initial position. Certain function words which are longer do not have a paler colour, as can be seen in the preposition

“after” being the same intense red as “ran”.

The following questions deal with the change in mental imagery of words when gaining suffixes.

Whereas the previous set of questions dealt with immediate and automatic notice of colour in a word, this set allows further focus and consideration of the connections between the colours and mental imagery.

When the plural suffix “-s”/”-es”/”-ies” is added, the pinkness of the “s” does not immediately affect the perception of the word, however, when focusing on it and recognizing that it is in the plural form, the mental image changes and gains a pink element in various ways. It is either a pinkish filter which covers the whole image, or perhaps the objects turn pink.

Figure 22 Function words (“the”, “and”, “it”) are perceived as weaker in colour intensity.

39 As far as irregular plural nouns are concerned, the mental images are only sometimes altered by the change of letters and thus colours in the word. The further away the changed letter is from the initial one, the lesser the chances of it being perceived. For example, in the word “knife”, the letter “f” is only fourth in line, hardly affecting Nejc’s perception through the whole-word colour effect. Therefore, when comparing “knife” and “knives”, the change from “f” to “v” is not very noticeable, unless he focuses and looks through the whole-word colour, which is green due to the initial “k”. Figuring that a doubled letter would have more effect in noticing the noun’s plural change, I presented him the words “foot” and “feet” as well; however, the letters “o” and “e” are both orange to him, therefore it did not provide any good results, besides seeing that the mental image did not change due to the colour staying the same. The best change was noticed in the couple “mouse” and “mice”. The word “mouse” is perceived as purple because of purple “m” and pink “s”, whereas “mice” is seen as lighter purple-yellow due to the white “i” and yellow “c” and


In addition, letter (or whole word) changes in irregular verbs are also not connected to the mental pictures of the words. Once again, it depends on the changed letter’s position: for example,

“drink”, “drank”, and “drunk” are all yellow; the “i”, “a”, and “u” respectively have no effect on the whole-word colour (the same case as with “knife – knives”). Only with more focus is Nejc able to pinpoint the different letters. The colours have helped him in rote memorisation of irregular verbs

Figure 24 Mental images of irregular verbs are not affected by the concurrent colours. Interestingly, the verbs “is” and “am” are an irregularity in Nejc’s perceptions. “Is” is white instead of being affected by the pink second letter; and

“am” is purple instead of red due to the intense red initial “a”.

Figure 23 The changed letters are near enough to the beginning of the word to be quickly noticed and allow change of the whole-word colour.

40 As far as regular verbs are concerned, the suffixes “-ed” and “-ied” are often perceived, but the mental images are never affected by them. For example, in the words “help” and “helped”, the former is entirely brown, whereas the latter has a hint of yellow in the suffix area. But in the case of “married”, due to it having a doubling of the red letter “r”, the suffix “-ed” is overshadowed by its intensity.

Furthermore, when presented with comparatives and superlatives, the suffixes “-er” and

“-est”, Nejc once again did not notice any change in mental imagery of the adjectives. When there is no gemination present, the suffix is better noticeable. Using “more” and “the most” in comparative and superlative structures was noticed as purple immediately since they were separate words.

Nejc’s perceptions of wh-questions somewhat affect the corresponding mental images, except for the more abstract couple “why” and “how”. Out of the six wh-questions, save for “why” and

“how”, three corresponding mental images were of external nature and were in no way connected to any of the colours in the word; these questions were “who”, “where”, and “whose”. The mental image Nejc experiences with “who” is one of a crime scene and blood, as in somebody posing the question “Who died?”. The same crime scene is connected to the question “whose” as in “whose blood is it?” or “Whose items are at the scene?”, etc. With “where”, he sees green scenes of nature, be it meadows, forests, or lush jungles.

Figure 26 Wh-words and their whole-word colours. The underlined letters are dominant and direct the colour. The first column is affected by external images, the middle has mental images connected to the letters, and the third has no

corresponding mental images.

Figure 25 Comparative suffixes were not perceived as a different colour.

41 The other five, i.e. “what”, “when”, “which”, “how”, and “why”, are affected by certain letters in the words. Even though all the words (except for “how”) are mostly black due to the black initial letter “w”, they are distinguished by Nejc by focusing more on the last part of the word, which then takes over the black whole-word colour tint. In the figure 26 the dominant letters have been underscored. The redness of the word “what” is associated with a red-faced teacher yelling

“what?!” in a classroom; “when” is connected to an association between the colour blue and intelligence – or attention to detail. His mental image is that of a literal blue ribbon of a timeline extending towards infinity; “which” is light yellow (probably because of the neighbouring white

“i”) and brings up a mental image of yellow LEGO human figurines.

Negation is connected to the colour blue due to the letter “n”. However, the blue tint is not immediately noticed in negation words which have a different initial letter, for example “doesn’t”

or “wasn’t”, etc. In those cases, the whole-word colour effect corresponds to the initial letter first and the negation is noticed and registered subsequently. In all of the other cases, for example

“not”, “no”, “never”, etc., Nejc immediately perceives blue; however, when present as a function word in a long sentence, its colour intensity is dimmed.