For many of us those questions may seem pretty fatuous. We’re used to the metaphorical use of the term “vowel colour” as a synonym of “vowel quality”: something to be described in terms of front/back, close/open (or high/low), and rounded/unrounded. But actual hues? Is this vowel pink, that one green? Meaningless questions, surely.
Not for everyone. Some people exhibit a neurological condition known as synaesthesia. For them, numbers or letters or days of the week are characterized by different hues. Read about it here.
(It’s not the same as phonaesthesia, which is to do with sound symbolism. Though I suppose the two are related.)
If there are synaesthetes who think that particular letters have particular colours (and apparently there are), what about speech sounds? Are they coloured, too? That’s the subject of a piece of research currently being carried out by Rob Drummond of Manchester Metropolitan University.
Anyone can take part in this research, even if they have never thought of speech sounds as being coloured. Just go to www.vowelcolours.org or visit the dedicated page on Facebook, and volunteer as a subject to answer an online questionnaire.
…we need as many people as possible to help us by completing a task online. Anyone at all can take part, as long as you are able to hear sounds on the computer you are using. The task itself is extremely straightforward and will take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete.
Rob asks me to invite all my readers to take part, whether native speakers of English or not. So how about it?