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AUTHOR: Monika A. Bednarek TITLE: Emotion Talk Across Corpora PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2008
Gloria Cappelli, Department of English Studies, University of Pisa, Italy
''Emotion Talk Across Corpora'' is a book-length treatment of emotion talk in four registers of British English (conversation, news reportage, fiction and academic discourse) based on a combination of systemic-functional appraisal theory and corpus linguistics (Biber's theories of register variation and Hunston's local grammar approach). It is composed of six chapters preceded by a foreword by Prof. J.R. Martin (University of Sidney), a list of figures, tables and images and a brief explanation of the system network notation used, and followed by references and an index.
Chapter 1, ''Analyzing Language and Emotion'' describes the subject and the objectives of the book and introduces the main concepts which will be used in the following chapters. The author clearly states that the book is about ''emotion talk'' – a label that she uses to indicate the use of emotion terms – and its function in discourse. ''[the book] seeks to investigate how we use emotion talk in different types of text (the four registers of casual conversation, fiction, news reportage, and academic discourse) to position ourselves, to express evaluations and to provide information, and is aimed at all researchers interested in the use of emotion talk in naturally occurring discourse'' (p.2). The following sections of Chapter 1 are dedicated to a synthetic but detailed and wide-ranging overview of emotion research and the main questions that such research has attempted to answer. Previous approaches to affect/emotion in linguistics are grouped according to the viewpoint adopted and the sub-discipline of linguistics in which they can be situated (e.g., the cognitive approach, the cross-linguistic approach, the linguistic-anthropological approach, etc.). Special attention is dedicated to the pragmatic/textlinguistic approach, which is partly adopted by Bednarek herself for her research. The different approaches are also compared in terms of the distinction that the various studies make between ''emotional talk'' (i.e. the different types of human linguistic behavior that signal emotion without recourse to linguistic expressions that explicitly denote emotion) and ''emotion talk'' (i.e. linguistic expressions that explicitly denote emotion), with only the latter being included in Bednarek's investigation. In the following two sections, the author introduces the theoretical background against which her investigation of emotion terms is built: systemic functional linguistics and appraisal theory (section 1.4) and stance analysis and register variation studies (1.5). Finally, the choice of the lexical items studied and the methodology for the creation of the corpus and for the analysis of the data are discussed in section 1.6. The final section of Chapter 1 provides a summary of the three main aims of the book, and a very brief outline of the work.
Chapter 2, ''Emotion Profiling'', presents a large-scale investigation of the frequency profiles of the selected emotion terms (which Bednarek calls ''emotion profiles'') in the four genres under scrutiny. Starting from the claim of recent corpus-linguistics research ''that linguistic choices are mainly motivated by function, resulting in many linguistic differences between registers'', and inspired by the fact that ''little systematic linguistic research [...] has considered the question of register variation in the usage of emotion terms'' (p.27), the author carries out a thorough investigation of the lexical, part-of-speech (POS) and syntactic variation of such terms in her corpus (a sub-corpus of the British National Corpus). The results are discussed at length and made readily available to the reader thanks to the many tables which schematize the findings of the corpus study, both in terms of raw frequencies and occurrences per million words. The lexical and POS variation shows that the most frequent emotion terms across genres are those with a high ''psychocultural salience'' (p.48), that is, those terms that in psycholinguistic experiments are free-listed by the informants. Examples of such words are ''happy'', ''angry'', ''sad'', ''love'' and ''hate''. Moreover, differences in POS distribution across genres seem to indicate that the analysis can in fact contribute to the identification of their defining features. Overall, negative emotions are found to be more frequently lexicalized than their positive counterparts. The possible reasons for this preference are discussed in detail with reference to psychological, cognitive and linguistic research (pp.49-51). The study of syntactic variation in emotion terms in the four genres is carried out on a subset of emotion terms, because it requires manual scrutiny of the data, and that would not be feasible on a large number of lexical items. This part of the research is grounded in the assumption that ''language is at least partly responsible for construing reality'' and that therefore ''the usage of emotion terms in the English language with respect to syntactic variation seems to contribute to the Western conceptualization of emotions as prototypically non-comparable, non-countable, stative [and] private rather than public/shared'' (p.54). Observations about the way in which emotion terms and the syntactic patterns in which they enter can be related to culture close the chapter.
Chapter 3, ''A local Grammar of Affect'', and Chapter 4, ''Patterns of Affect across Corpora'', both rely on the local grammar approach to affect and discuss the most important patterns and their function(s) in the four genres. Chapter 3 focuses on the words and word classes that precede or follow a subset of 15 emotion terms and it is a qualitative rather than a quantitative analysis aiming at sketching a ''local grammar of affect, which is based on a combination of Hunston's [...] local grammar approach and Fillmore's FrameNet approach'' (p.65), both corpus-based and both involving the mapping of semantic-functional categories onto sentences. The two approaches are discussed and compared in section 3.1 and a proposal for the combination of the two for the analysis of emotion terms is provided in section 3.2, with FrameNet contributing mostly to the description of contextual information and local grammar to the individual functions realized by different lexical items. Three main components for the linguistic encoding of emotional experience are identified and labeled according to appraisal theory (emoter, emotion and trigger), with three additional labels which are helpful on occasions for the description of sentence elements (expressor, empathy target and action). In section 3.3, the patterns emerging from the functional labeling of the elements in the corpus sentences are illustrated with the help of numerous tables, and discussed in detail. Affect patterns are described according to three main factors: the presence of an emoter (emoted vs. unemoted affect), the presence of a trigger (directed vs. undirected affect) and the explicitness of the emotional response (covert vs. overt affect). Having identified the most common linguistic features of each pattern, a frequency study of the different patterns and their function in the four genres is made possible and is in fact presented in Chapter 4. Common functions of patterns of affect are identified for each genre and thoroughly discussed and exemplified.
Chapter 5, ''Mapping and Analyzing Affect'' and Chapter 6, ''Enacting Affect: Pragmatic Analysis'', are the chapters in which the results of the corpus analysis is used to make headway in the theory. In Chapter 5, after discussing the appraisal theoretic approach to affect types, Bednarek proposes a convincing revision of the categorization of emotion terms, which she calls ''a fuzzy system of modified affect''. She proposes that emotion terms should be classified ''according to five rather than three categories, and re-construe the system of in/security and dis/satisfaction accordingly. [...] [T]his system is set as a fuzzy system, with no clear boundaries between the affect types, and possibly blends [...]. It is also assumed [...] that linguistic affect is organized as a prototype category, with core, better and worse members, and family resemblances [...] between family members'' (p.167-168). She also discusses the valence of emotion terms and proposes that the positive vs. negative dichotomy should be overcome with the introduction of the neutral categories of surprise and dis/inclination. Chapter 6 is ideally divided in two parts, even though they are not in a sequential order: in sections 6.1 and 6.3, the author discusses ''affective key'' (''the co-occurrence of particular configurations of affect'', p.184) and ''affective stance'' (''the co-selection or patterning of affect types in stretches of text related to the construal of certain authorial and non-authorial personae with respect to emotional experience'', p.184) in the four genres, outlining the main functions of emotion terms in each one of them. Sections 6.2, 6.4 and 6.5 interestingly provide suggestions for various areas that still need to be explored in order to advance emotion and affect research and for possible applications of the latter.
Monika Bednarek's ''Emotion Talk across Corpora'' is interesting in many respects; first and foremost, for the corpus-based insight it provides in the lexicalization of emotions in different genres of British English. The book shows extensive knowledge of the literature on previous emotion research - even in fields other than linguistics - and a remarkable ability to schematize a complex theoretical panorama, where the borders between the various contributions are not always clear-cut. Discussion of the corpus data is preceded by methodological observations which evidence the author's awareness of the possible limitations of working on a smaller sub-set of data from a larger corpus. They also bring to the fore an important issue for pragmatically- and semantically-oriented research: the lack of extensive semantic and pragmatic annotation which would allow corpus-based and corpus-driven studies. The data analysis is easy to follow thanks to both the in-depth explanations provided and the numerous tables and examples. Every chapter is closed by a summary of the main contents discussed, which helps the reader review the wealth of information received before moving on the next chapter.
As to the data discussed, I am not sure I agree with the classification of some lexical items as ''neutral'' rather than positive or negative. In particular, ''willing'', listed among the neutral terms in Chapter 3 (p.65), seems rather a positive term to me. Moreover, I had never thought of it as an emotion term, but rather a marker of boulomaic modality and for this reason, I thought at first that it should not have been included in the corpus study. Further ahead in the book, though, Bednarek tackles the question and discusses a very interesting aspect of emotion talk: the fact that it is often found in colligation with modality and that, in some cases, terms can lexicalize more than one emotion and even more than one ''attitude''. More specifically, the author points out that affect and modality often interact either at the sentence/text level or at the lexical level itself. In other words, the complex nature of attitudes is sometimes reflected in the complex nature of some of the lexical items investigated (Cappelli 2008).
Some doubts remain as to the categorization of the appraisal categories Bednarek identifies as positive, negative or neutral. If there is little doubt that the new category ''Surprise'' is neutral, I think the new category of ''Dis/inclination'' (which is rightly added as a separate one) does have a positive (inclination) and a negative (disinclination) pole.
I found Chapter 6 slightly more difficult to follow. First, a deeper knowledge of appraisal theory and systemic functional linguistics than I had (and was needed for the previous chapters) is probably presupposed. It took me quite a while to understand the way in which the concepts of ''affective key'' and ''affective stance'' were used, despite the definitions provided by the author. Second, the ''pragmatic'' analysis is mostly a functional analysis and it was very different from what I had come to expect from the chapter's title. The chapter is, however, very interesting in that it presents the functions of the various patterns of affect in the four genres investigated and proposes many ideas for future research.
At a more theoretical level, Bednarek's book certainly advances the discipline and opens up a number of promising questions. The hypothesis, only very briefly discussed by the author (p.33), that the investigation of the way in which emotions come to be linguistically encoded in different genres may shed some light on the role of culture in shaping emotions themselves and the culturally appropriate/expected emotional responses is at minimum intriguing and deserves, in my opinion, to be further investigated. Attitudes and their role in meaning construal, communication and cognition have only recently started to receive the full attention they deserve (see Bertuccelli Papi 2000 for an overview of previous research on attitudes) and Bednarek's work certainly contributes to the understanding of one of the least explored domains in linguistics - and yet a crucial one.
Far from consisting in the mere description of the lexical domain of emotion terms, the research presented in the book provides support to the author's original contribution to the theoretical apparatus necessary for a deeper understanding of the linguistic expression of affect and of attitudinal meanings in general. Besides the review of the appraisal theoretic categorization she proposes, another interesting aspect of this work is Bednarek's (successful) effort to find ways to bring together theories and approaches which, although developed within different theoretical traditions, are clearly highly compatible and from whose integration research in the field can clearly benefit. As attitudinal meaning construal is often the result of the interaction of factors at different levels of the linguistic system, an interdisciplinary approach which can account for these various levels is, in my opinion, to be sought after (Cappelli 2008).
Bertuccelli Papi, Marcella. 2000. Implicitness in Text and Discourse. Pisa: ETS.
Cappelli, Gloria. 2008. ''I reckon I know how Leonardo da Vinci must have felt...'': Epistemicity, evidentiality and English verbs of cognitive attitude. Pari: Pari Publishing.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Gloria Cappelli has a PhD in English Linguistics and works at the
Department of English Studies of the University of Pisa. Her main research
interests include semantics and pragmatics, applied linguistics and ESP
(English for Special Purposes). Over the past six years, she has been
teaching at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures and at the
Faculty of Tourism Sciences of the University of Pisa. She has published
several articles in Italian and international journals, a book on tourism
English and a book-length semantic and pragmatic study of English verbs of
cognitive attitude. She is co-editor of a book on lexical complexity and
translation with M. Bertuccelli Papi and S. Masi.