Two experiments were conducted to examine the conceptual relation between words and nonmeaningful sounds. In order to reduce the role of linguistic mediation, sounds were recorded in such a way that it was highly unlikely to identify the source that produced them. Related and unrelated sound–word pairs were presented in Experiment 1 and the order of presentation was reversed in Experiment 2 (word–sound). Results showed that, in both experiments, participants were sensitive to the conceptual relation between the two items. They were able to correctly categorize items as related or unrelated with good accuracy. Moreover, a relatedness effect developed in the event-related brain potentials between 250 and 600 msec, although with a slightly different scalp topography for word and sound targets. Results are discussed in terms of similar conceptual processing networks and we propose a tentative model of the semiotics of sounds.

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