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Toril Johannessen

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YES / OR / NO

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YES / OR / NO

The yes/or/no-effect

Original image-material from study of speech sounds.
2 watercolours on paper, 30,5 x 22,9 cm each.


The shapes of the rope figures YES/OR/NO are based on the study The yes/or/no-effect.
The informants in the study (Norwegian high school students) were presented for a set of figures and asked which of these figures
best represented the sound of the words "yes", "or" and "no" in 5 languages, some of which the informants know, English and Norwegian,
and some which they did not know, Arabic, Mandarin and Hindi. The sounds of the words in the languages unknown to the informants
were abstract to them in the sense that they did not know the meanings of the speech sounds, while the sounds in the known languages
(presented last) had clear meanings to the informants. Some sounds tended to be associated with the rounder shapes, and some to angled
or spiky shapes. The most clear tendency was however that abstract sounds invoked associations to the more complex figures,
while the known sounds invoked associations to the more basic figures.

The data from the study was used to construct three new shapes to symbolize the concepts of YES, OR and NO.
YES is a triangular shape, OR is a rounded shape with spikes and NO is a rounded rectangular shape.
These visual attributes are found in each of the rope figures, and thus their names - and meanings - are derived from the corresponding shapes.