Julien Meyer

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2013/2014
discipline Linguistics
Associate Researcher, Linguistic Division, Museu Goeldi, Belém, Brazil

Research project

Acoustic iconicity in language - new insights


My research as an Eurias Fellow bears on acoustic iconicity in languages. The focus of the project is on three natural oral practices which consist in mapping normal speech to very different acoustic signals such as whistling, instrumental music and animal calls. These are respectively called ‘whistled languages’, ‘the singing mode of traditional musical instruments’ and ‘onomatopoetic words named after animal calls’. They exist in a significant diversity of languages all over the world and represent an opportunity to study under various angles the perceptive and productive adaptation of different language structures into simple acoustic signals or musical melodies. They are inherently interdisciplinary phenomena raising important questions on the phonology and the evolution of languages. So far, they have been very little studied under phonetic and cognitive perspectives because they are hard to locate and document, being still practiced only in remote rural areas. However, since 2003, I have worked on the description of 13 whistled and 5 instrumental forms of languages of Europe, Asia and South America. Moreover, I have developed a linguistic documentation and description project in the Amazon region since 2008 among the Gavião, the Suruí (Rondônia, Brazil) and, more recently, the Wayãpi people (Amapá, Brazil and French Guiana) who use all three types of iconic transformations.


During my academic year in the Collegium of Lyon, I will develop an original methodology to compare these different modalities of acoustic imitation. One important objective will be to identify language-specific or modality-specific strategies of phonetic mapping. A special attention will be paid to the description and the publication of the information collected recently in the Amazon with collaborators in Brazil and French Guiana. To come to a better understanding of the cognitive mapping processes at play, I will also use field recorded stimuli as a base to develop original perceptual experiments in collaboration with French researchers of Lyon, using psycholinguistic methodology to test different target populations (native speakers of both tonal and non tonal languages). Meanwhile, I will set up an interdisciplinary research team in France to continue to work on these innovative topics and methodologies. This will provide a suitable background to build international partnerships, in particular with the Linguistic Division of the Museu Goeldi (Belém, Brazil) where I have been working since 2008.



Julien Meyer is a Post Doctoral Associate Researcher (CNPq) at the Linguistics Division of the Museu Goeldi in Belém, Brazil. He holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Sciences option Linguistics from the University of Lyon 2.

His research is focused on Acoustic Communication, principally Human Language. He studies Cognitive, Physiologic, Ecologic and Environmental constraints that influence language production and comprehension. 

Selected publications


‘Speech Recognition in Natural Background Noise’, with L. Dentel & F. Meunier, PlosONE, vol. 8, no. 11, 2013, pp. 1-14.


‘Arte verbal é música na língua Gavião de Rondônia: metodologia para estudar e documentar a fala tocada com instrumentos musicais’, with D. Moore, Boletim do Museu Goeldi, vol. 8, no. 2, 2013, pp. 52-70. 


'La Parole Sifflée en Amazonie', in A. Anakesa (ed.), Homme, Nature, Patrimonialisation:

Traditions et pratiques, discours et représentations, connaissances et savoirs dans les cultures plurielles de la Guyane et de la Caraïbe, DVD-ROM, Cayenne, France, 2012.


‘A methodology for the study of rhythm in drummed forms of languages: Bora of Amazon’, with L. Dentel & F.Seifart, Proceedings of Interspeech 2012, Portland, 2012, pp. 686-690. 


'Parole sifflée dans le monde: variété des locuteurs et de leurs pratiques', in C. Grinevald 

& M. Bert (eds), Linguistique de terrain sur langues en danger : locuteurs et linguistes, Faits de Langues 35-36, OPHRYS, 2010, pp. 443-468.


'Acoustic Strategy and Typology of Whistled Languages; Phonetic Comparison and Perceptual Cues of Whistled Vowels', Journal of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38, no. 1, 2008, pp. 69-94.


'Exploiting the didactic role of whistled speech: interactions between phonetic research and education in Gomero Spanish and Mazatec', with J.N. Casimiro, Language Design, Journal of Theorical and Experimental Linguistics, Special issue 2: Experimental Prosody, Metodo Ediciones, Granada, 2008, pp.57-64.


'Whistled speech and whistled languages', with B. Gautheron, in K. Brown (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, vol.13, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, Oxford, 2006, pp. 573-576.




senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Political Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Literature
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Environmental Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Philosophy