Francesca Strik Lievers

Assistant professor in Linguistics, Università degli studi di Genova

My current research focuses on perception, and more specifically on the relationship between the senses, as seen through the lens of language.

I am interested in how perceptual experiences from different sensory domains are expressed in the lexicon of language(s), which leads me to explore questions such as: Why do languages tend to have many more words for sight-related and hearing-related concepts than for concepts related to the other senses? Why is English auditory lexicon particularly rich in verbs? How does the sensory lexicon of a language change over time?

I also try to understand how the individual senses are associated with each other in language. Synaesthetic metaphors, which combine linguistic expressions referring to different senses, offer an exceptional vantage point from which to observe sensory associations, and raise further questions, for instance: Why don’t we even notice that "sweet melody" is a (synaesthetic) metaphor, while "golden melody" (Keats) strikes us as a creative and unusual combination? Should we consider "sweet melody" a metaphor at all? And is there a connection between the way the lexicon of perception is structured and the type of synaesthetic metaphors that we use more commonly?

After gaining my PhD in Linguistics at the University of Pisa with a thesis in the area of Italian grammar (published by Accademia dalla Crusca), I held postdoctoral positions at various institutions in Italy and abroad, including the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and I have been a visiting fellow at the University of Amsterdam, Radboud University of Nijmegen, and University of Oxford. I am now involved in a metaphor-related project at the University of Genova.


  • –present
    Postdoctoral researcher in Linguistics, Università degli studi di Genova