Emotion in Discourse

  • March 2019, John Benjamins
  • DOI: 10.1075/pbns.302

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

What is it about?

For many years, we studied language as a cool, rational structure, often using tools and methods from the austere worlds of mathematics and logic. It has long been recognized, however, that there is much more to language use. This book, edited in collaboration with Laura Alba-Juez, picks up on what has been called the 'emotional turn' in language sciences, and explores various ways in which our emotional life finds its way into our use of language. As a result, there is a lot in here that the reader can empathize with.

Why is it important?

The book has fourteen chapters, all by different authors or groups of authors, so it covers many more aspects of emotion in language use than we can mention here. Among the multitude of themes are how internet chatting is above all about communicating feelings, how we use swearwords (from 'dirty words' to more genteel exclamations) in different contexts, how we use metaphors to talk about our feelings, and how even neutral-looking words like 'left' and 'right' are drenched with emotions, both positive and negative. Lots of the chapters draw on psychology: the book shows how psychology can help linguists to categorize emotions, to understand the relation between humour and feelings, and to shed light on differences in people's 'emotional intelligence'. We also see how in newspaper reports about controversial topics emotions come into play, and even in the rational world of the hard sciences, there is an emotional side to how findings are presented. In short, emotions are everywhere in language, and we can't go on ignoring them.


Professor Lachlan Mackenzie
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Working on emotions in discourse was a new experience for me, but one that proved very rewarding and enjoyable. The book is one of the main outputs of a project financed by the Spanish government and extremely ably led by my co-editor, Prof. Laura Alba-Juez of UNED, the Spanish National University for Distance Education. Collaborating with her was delightful. If you're interested in emotion in discourse, I can recommend the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that was another major 'deliverable' of the project. Here is a link to the Introduction to the MOOC, with some welcoming words from Laura and me: https://canal.uned.es/video/5a6f39f6b1111f39448b456a.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Lachlan Mackenzie and Dr Laura Alba-Juez