The Shape of Sound
and Emotions

Alice’s adventures through the Looking Glass includes some playful forays into the nature of speech. When Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, their conversation explores the nature of words and meaning of sounds. 

Alice through the looking glass

Alice through the looking glass

“My name is Alice…“ “It’s a stupid enough name!” Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. “What does it mean?“ “Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully. “Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: “My name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”

Can a two-word phrase like Humpty Dumpty evoke his “handsome shape” better than some other random collection of sounds? This is a philosophical question that dates back to Greek philosophers such as Plato (around 450 BCE). In the past, scientists assumed words were arbitrary and that there was no innate meaning in sounds. But more and more researchers now think that Humpty may have been right…

This is yours and your children’s chance to add to the research and discover if sounds really can suggest shapes. The aim of this creative exercise is to draw the shape of your name.  If you follow the directions and tips below it will be fun and easy! 

What you need

  • One sheet of paper 
  • A pencil and a black marker or felt pen 
  • Some colour markers 
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

Fun Sheets

  • Page 1: Alice’s story extract. Hampty Dampty
  • Page 2: The Shape of Sound
  • Page 3: The Shape of Emotions

How is the shape of your name?

How is the shape of your emotions?


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