Which Is "Bouba", and Which Is "Kiki"?

Tom Scott

1,4 milj. näkymät56

    Sooner or later, I was going to get around to this: it's one of the most famous experiments in linguistics. •
    Written with Molly Ruhl and Gretchen McCulloch. Gretchen's podcast has an episode all about this: lingthusiasm.com/post/175127434871/lingthusiasm-episode-21-what-words-sound-spiky
    Gretchen's book BECAUSE INTERNET, all about the evolution of internet language, is available:
    🇺🇸 US: amzn.to/30tLpjT
    🇨🇦 CA: amzn.to/2JsTYWH
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    (Those are affiliate links that give a commission to me or Gretchen, depending on country!)
    Graphics by William Marler: wmad.co.uk
    Audio mix by Graham Haerther: haerther.net
    Köhler, W. (1929). Gestalt Psychology. New York: Liveright.
    Ramachandran, V. S., Hubbard, E. M. (2001) Synaesthesia-A window into perception, thought and language. Journal of Consciousness Studies 8: 3-34.
    Berlin, B. (1994). Evidence for pervasive synesthetic sound symbolism in ethnozoological nomenclature. In L. Hinton, J. Nichols & J. Ohala (Eds.), Sound symbolism (pp. 76 - 93). New York: Cambridge University Press.
    Davis, R. (1961). The fitness of names to drawings. a cross-cultural study in Tanganyika. Br. J. Psychol. 52, 259-268. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1961.tb00788.x,
    Ramachandran, V. S., and Hubbard, E. M. (2001). Synaesthesia-a window into perception, thought and language. J. Conscious. Stud. 8, 3-34.,
    Koriat, A., & Levy, I. (1979). Figural symbolism in Chinese ideographs. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 8 (4), 353 - 365.
    Maurer, D., Pathman, T., Mondloch, C.J. (2006). The shape of boubas: sound-shape correspondences in toddlers and adults. Developmental science, Vol.9 (3), p.316-322,
    Nielsen, A., and Rendall, D. (2011). The sound of round: evaluating the sound-symbolic role of consonants in the classic Takete-Maluma phenomenon. Can. J. Exp. Psychol. 65, 115-124. doi: 10.1037/a0022268,
    Bremner, A. J., Caparos, S., Davidoff, J., de Fockert, J., Linnell, K. J., and Spence, C. (2013). “Bouba” and “Kiki” in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape-sound matches, but different shape-taste matches to Westerners. Cognition 126, 165-172. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.09.007
    De Saussure, F. (2011, republished from 1916). Course in general linguistics. Columbia University Press.
    Styles, S.J., & Gawne, L. (2017). When Does Maluma/Takete Fail? Two Key Failures and a Meta-Analysis Suggest That Phonology and Phonotactics Matter. I-Perception, 8(4), 2041669517724807.
    I'm at tomscott.com
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    Julkaistu 7 kuukautta sitten


    1. Tom Scott

      Thanks to all the team who work with me on these! This is very much a collective effort these days, despite me being the face of it. Please do pull down the description to see everyone involved, and all the references!

      1. bubbaloo bub

        I think part of it is that all the letters in kiki have a lot of sharp edges and points while bouba is a lot more rounded

      2. Jonathan Forster

        There is research showing that all the nouns of a language more commonly contain specific phonemes, and that the verbs of a language more commonly contain a different set of phonemes. Furthermore there is evidence that speakers of a language have knowledge of this distinct statistical distribution of phonemes between nouns and verbs. The idea that speakers have phonetic knowledge of very abstract linguistic units such as lexical classes (nouns and verbs) is new; cognitive linguistic theory has focused on postulating and describing the abstract semantic content of lexical classes and has considered phonetic knowledge to only be instantiated at level of the individual word. See Hollman, W 2013 'nouns and verbs in cognitive grammar: where is the 'sound' evidence?'.

      3. 4get past

        post something original Guys this video is stolen and who wanna throw tomatoes on this guy 🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅 👎👎👎👎 👎

      4. Not Nico Says...


      5. Shreya Sevelar

        Hey, could it possibly be that the words for bird in the Peruvian language are kinda similar to the sounds made by the bird? When I read the words in my head it kinda sounds like a birds tweet or a chirp...

    2. ZeeByte uwu


    3. Slippin' Jimmy


    4. Hilbert Black


    5. agent 233

      This is because the letter "K" is pointy and the letter "B" is round

    6. Jayne Charles

      kiki is pointy like the star bouba is round shaped like the splat

    7. John Doe



      “Day 348. I’m still looking through the comments section looking for a ‘baba and keke’ joke, nothing found yet.”

    9. Jay Davila

      Heh, booba

    10. Win090949

      Pyra? More like [round shape]

    11. Pc118Gamer


    12. Basti5454


    13. Walroose


    14. That one guy


    15. Mahuroli

      00:07 Red: Bouba Blue: Kiki I know that most people would do the opposite, but I have Synesthesia-for me voiced consonants feel reddish and unvoiced bluish.

    16. impr0visati0n


    17. 7

      don't know if it's just me but the colors of the shapes impacted which name i thought fit them the best as well. to me, 'bouba' is a very blue word

    18. AniqPlayz

      On my way to go hit a bear

    19. Mindstab Thrull

      Of course, since there's so much attribution to sources, I guess we can't tell Tom that there are CITATIONS NEEDED. ... I'll see myself out now. :)

    20. dawson


    21. commenter any videos

      Wait what I thought that the pointy one is bouba and the other one is kiki

    22. Will Chase

      B O O B A

    23. Thundercunt McGeezax


    24. Edward Kenway

      I chose wrong at the beginning, guess Im a weirdo

    25. Arcitek GD

      i used to say that the number 8 would feel squishy and 9 and 7 would feel sharp i still feel that

    26. GrimmOfficial

      Booba and pp

    27. MaiTeN

      ( • )( • ) 👀 Booba!

    28. Evan Guthrie


    29. Weeb on Weed

      Hehe booba

    30. Micah On The Mic


    31. Megilena K

      I called the red shape "bouba" because it sounds to me like "boom" and the red one is similar to comic shapea with this word written in the middle, like the explosion shape. The blue one I caled Kiki because it's sound like a bunny or rabbit name, and the rounded ends of the shape looks kind of like rabbit's/bunny's ears.

    32. JMB

      Kiki sounds sharper off the tongue so of course we'd choose the shape with sharper edges

    33. Stolen by Fairies [foxanne]

      Bouba even looks round, as does the shape. Kiki looks pointy, so does the shape. And it also sounds like that (and yes, synesthesia is definitely a thing for me).

    34. hacid


    35. Death By Rainbow

      i just came to hear him say booba

    36. Recks Roller


    37. Devin

      hehe booba

    38. Timmy Clifton


    39. Nethen


    40. owen tykal


    41. [PK] GodBleeple

      b o o b a?

    42. Emporium

      2:42 booba

    43. Qd


    44. Vari

      Interestingly, my decision seems to have been based off of the color... I’ve known Kiki as a female name so I paired it with the pink

    45. Wolflordy

      Can't this just be explained by asserting that there is some similarities between all human languages simply because they all share an ancestor language? Kind of like how all creatures have some similarities between them because of a common ancestor.

    46. Skezy

      I knew what was happening before watching this... So I called the pointy one bouba

    47. 0ctacamel

      BRO. I’ve always thought of two categories for letters. “Sharp”, which has letters like k, i, t, x. And “round” letters, which has ones like o, b, u, p. Everybody I’ve told about this has just thought I was weird until now

    48. AJ Baker

      baba and keke are --people-- --walls-- whatever! too, y'know!

    49. Leah L

      The word kiki and the red shape SEEM to me to be associated with cartoon/comic book “kaboom!” The word bouba and the blue shape SEEM to me to be associated with word “bubble”

    50. Mia Dockendorf

      So in short, round sound- round object, sharp sound- pointy object

    51. Teo


    52. zulimations


    53. Tristan Whittington

      My only thought was the spiky one was bouba from just seeing the thumbnail, and after watching this, I'm only marginally more concerned for the state of my brain

    54. evorm


    55. Bruhiones


    56. Krex


    57. InCrIpTiOn

      Because booba is round

    58. Eden Keeping


    59. Anti Weeb


    60. Oziji

      Booba 👀

    61. Phi the GAMER

      Booba round, my only reason...

    62. UwU OwO


    63. rain girl

      i chose the opposite bouba>boom>explosion? kiki>flowery kind of sound?

    64. Jimmeh Rulez

      Bouba Pp

      1. FaNiKa

        O•‿O• BOOBA

    65. Zarabatana Productions


    66. M

      What does it mean though if ur me and went for the opposite pairing and still thing that it sounds wrong the way everyone else pairs them haha am I broken?

    67. Brylee D

      “R is one of the most menacing of sounds. That’s why they call it murder not ‘muckduck’.” -Dwight K. Schrute

      1. TheDankBoi 69

        What about the Spanish trilled R? The one that most English-speaking people have trouble pronouncing?

      2. Skeleton War

        Doesn't work with the modern English R anymore, but he's still right about most languages. In modern English, K is a more menacing sound than R.

    68. C. C. I.

      I often use sounds combined with hand gestures to communicate taste/mouth sensation

    69. Cool Boss

      We now have recorded evidence of Tom saying "BOOBA"

    70. stargazer


    71. Hafy Day

      bo ga no

    72. Mehrbod Yousefian

      In a parallel universe: Bouba, Do you love me? are you riding? are never gonna leave from beside me?

    73. big fan or darth

      That one’s easy, bouba is you

    74. boom boom

      kiki is blue but bouba is r ed

    75. boom boom

      kiki is blue but bouba is red

    76. bubbleheadft

      Haha booba

    77. Crazy Raccoon


    78. Herman Zhukov

      Booba and titi

    79. Dalton Brown

      For those words of fish and bird I got 4 out of 5, interesting.

    80. ThanaLincoln


    81. adrymarker

      haha, booba

    82. kdhymes

      I suspect the main example given is a matter of tactile experience. We make the sounds with our bodies, in fact with one of the most sensitive and agile parts of our bodies. Make a B sound and your mouth does rounded things which you can feel and which you have done uncountable times. Make a K etc etc. I think it is interesting how so many explanations from linguists on these phenomena are kinda detached from that physical experience, they get to it last if at all.

    83. Discount


    84. pizzabruh1223

      did anyone else think this was about baba is you?

    85. Loony Titan

      Pointy is Bouba roundy is Kiki. change my mind.

    86. IcyIdiot


    87. KyubeyD3


    88. MawilliX

      Honestly though, I'm an English speaker and the *oba one is round, and the tlet one feels shattered.

    89. putridheresy


    90. hi

      I dont know because i dont know

    91. c0smo


    92. hex808080

      Bird is pointy. Borb is round.

    93. Zuna


    94. Queue Areste

      I picked them because Kiki has letters that are sharp and bouba has letters that are round

    95. Azi Bros

      I chose kiki as point because the only reasonwas the k sound ab buba cus the b sound cus it sounds more soft edit: a bit colour too but the sound and shape was the most important/connected for me

    96. SCRedstone


    97. Dee almond man

      Bouba -- Baba Kiki -- Kiki baba is you

    98. Mil Sek


    99. Kyotairu

      me: hehe booba

    100. Huy Nguyen Gia