Edited by Herbert L. Colston, Teenie Matlock and Gerard J. Steen
[Metaphor in Language, Cognition, and Communication 9] 2022
► pp. 77–94
Feeling for speaking
How expressive body movements ground verbal descriptions of emotions
In this paper, attention is drawn to the embodied experiences that are mobilized when speakers are asked to describe emotions. By analyzing how people use expressive body movements and language when thinking and speaking about emotion concepts, light is thrown on “People’s subjective, felt experiences of their bodies in action” (Gibbs, 2005: 9). It illustrates how experiencing emotion concepts bodily provides “part of the fundamental grounding for language and thought.” (Gibbs, 2005: 9). The title of this chapter alludes to Daniel I. Slobin’s reformulation of the linguistic relativity hypothesis. Slobin counters Wilhelm von Humboldt and Benjamin L. Whorf static understanding of the relationship between “thought and language” with a dynamic idea of this relation which he terms Thinking for speaking (Slobin, 1996: 76). We report a small study indicating that speakers not only express affective experiences as conceptual content, but perform or indicate expressive body movements before or while describing a specific emotion. The chapter thus suggests a very concrete way of understanding Gibbs’ assumption of an “embodiment premise for language and thought”.
- Study design
- Micro-analytic case studies
- Surprise is straightening oneself up
- Pride is a feeling of raised shoulders and an upright posture
- Fear is a lump of lead in the belly and a contracted body
- Happiness is a feeling that wants to get out and up in circles
- Is feeling for speaking a frequent phenomenon?
- Feeling first: A relevant phenomenon?
- Variable forms of embodied grounding
- Conclusion: Feeling for speaking – experiencing grounds speaking