LINGUIST List 15.2257

Sun Aug 8 2004

Review: Socioling/Anthro Ling: Fussell (2002)

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  1. Antonella Strambi, The Verbal Communication of Emotions

Message 1: The Verbal Communication of Emotions

Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 11:27:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: Antonella Strambi <antonella.strambiflinders.edu.au>
Subject: The Verbal Communication of Emotions

EDITOR: Fussell, Susan R.
TITLE: The Verbal Communication of Emotions
SUBTITLE: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2002
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-1446.html


Antonella Strambi, Department of Languages, Flinders University.

INTRODUCTION

This book is a collection of essays written by renowned scholars
operating within a wide variety of research areas and cultural
contexts. In the introduction, the interdisciplinary nature of this
collection is emphasized as the Editor states that the aim of the book
is to offer ''a comprehensive view of current research and fertilizing
cross-disciplinary interaction'' (p. 1). The 12 chapters that make up
the book deal with a variety of issues, ranging from semantic
differences across languages in relation to emotion terms to the
potential consequences of emotion communication from personal,
interpersonal and social perspectives.

SUMMARY

In CHAPTER 1, ''The verbal communication of emotion: Introduction and
overview'', the Editor, Susan R. Fussell, firstly discusses the
rationale behind the decision to (i) focus on verbal channels for the
communication of emotion and (ii) adopt an interdisciplinary
approach. Subsequently, Fussell summarizes the content of each essay
included in the book and provides suggestions for further research.

The remainder of the book is divided into three parts.

PART 1, ''Theoretical Foundations'' provides an overview of issues
that are at the core of emotion research, and includes three chapters.

In CHAPTER 2, ''Explicating Emotions Across Languages and Cultures: A
Semantic Approach'', Cliff Goddard discusses one of the most fertile
issues in emotion research, that of semantic differences between
languages in the realm of emotion terms. According to Goddard, such
differences have been overlooked by previous research, as an
equivalence between similar terms in different languages has often
been assumed, with the result that little attention has been given to
issues in translating instruments for data collection. However, since
the terms used to communicate emotions reflect mental representation,
or conceptualization of emotions, even slight differences at the
semantic level may index discrepancies at the cognitive level that
must be taken into consideration by cross-cultural psychology.

Goddard suggest that one way of going to the core of the problem of
equivalence across languages is to apply the ''natural semantic
metalanguage'' (NSM) approach, as proposed by Wierzbicka and himself
in a number of publications (e.g. Goddard and Wierzbicka 1994). This
framework allows a detailed semantic analysis of emotion terms, by
stating meaning ''in the form of an explanatory paraphrase composed in
a small, standardized and translatable met alanguage consist[ing] of
so-called 'semantic primes''' (p. 23). In this chapter, Goddard
provides examples in which the NSM framework is applied to a number of
lexical items from different languages, as well as sample analyses of
cultural scripts, or tacit norms regulating the expression of feelings
in different cultures.

CHAPTER 3, ''Integrating Verbal and Nonverbal Emotion(al) Messages'',
by Sally Planalp and Karen Knie, introduces three ''logics'', or
models of communication, borrowed from O'Keefe (1988), that allow
researchers to analyze verbal and non-verbal messages within an
integrated approach. The three logics concern: (i) personal expression
(''Expressive Logic''), (ii) mutual understanding and obeying
conventions (''Conventional Logic'') and (iii) achievement of other
goals, especially social ones (''Rhetorical Logic''). Within the
Expressive logic, nonverbal behavior plays a fundamental role as it is
often the privileged channel through which emotions that are
''pressing out'' are ''released'' from the body (p. 58). The
Conventional logic privileges accurate communication and places
greater focus on how emotional content is understood by the
interlocutor. Here the roles of verbal and nonverbal channels can be
extremely complex, as the meaning of verbal cues can only be
interpreted in combination with nonverbal cues and
vice-versa. Finally, from a Rhetorical perspective, the very process
of interaction becomes central, as both sender goals and receiver
reaction are considered. The aim of emotional messages here goes
beyond simple mutual understanding, as it may involve ''managing one's
self-presentation'' or ''managing the relationship between oneself and
others'' (p. 64). In this section, Planalp and Knie discuss the
potential roles of verbal and nonverbal cues in communicating the
subtleties of emotion communication, as well as in providing the
necessary flexibility for interactants to manage the exchange
successfully. The authors also discuss the merits and pitfalls of a
variety of research traditions and suggest approaches that may be
useful in studying emotion communication as an integration of verbal
and nonverbal cues, from a rhetorical perspective. Finally, the three
logics are brought together and their mutual influences are explored.

Chapter 4, titled ''How to Do Emotions with Words: Emotionality in
Conversations'' by Reinhard Fiehler, translated by Harold B. Gill, III
and edited by Susan R. Fussell, provides an overview of Fiehler's
model for the study of emotion communication within an interactionist
framework. Fiehler distinguishes between three ''broad classes of
communication tasks'': (i) the manifestation of emotions, (ii) the
interpretation of emotions and (iii) the interactive processing of
emotions (p. 85). Somewhat similarly to the three logics discussed by
Planalp and Knie in Chapter 2, these three areas focus on the person
who communicates emotional messages, on the receiver, and on the
negotiation process that happens during interaction, respectively. The
model is extremely detailed as several sub-categories are identified
within each class. For example, a distinction is drawn between
expression and thematization within the area of manifestation;
furthermore, a systematic class ification of manifestation areas
(including physiological, verbal and non verbal manifestations) is
provided. In the remainder of the chapter, a six-step framework for
research on the communication of emotion is outlined and a sample
analysis of therapy conversations is provided to exemplify how the
concepts discussed in the chapter (e.g. Thematization) can be applied.

PART 2, ''Figurative Language in Emotional Communication'' is
comprised of four chapters focusing especially on metaphors used
during the communication of emotions. The underlying concept is that
figurative language provides access to cognitive representations of
emotions and is also more flexible and effective in the communication
of shades of meaning than literal expressions.

In CHAPTER 5, ''Emotion Concepts: Social Constructionism and Cognitive
Linguistics'', Zoltan K�vecses provides a critique to social
constructionism in the study of emotion terminology within different
languages. According to K�vecses, the main limitation of this approach
is its lack of attention to figurative language and to the numerous
nuances that the communication of emotion can take. As a result,
surface differences between languages are mistakenly taken as evidence
of differences in mental representations of emotions. On the other
hand, K�vecses argues, analyses of figurative language conducted
within the framework of cognitive linguistics bring underlying mental
scheme to the surface by identifying all the semantic components of
metaphors. Once these underlying meanings are identified, we can
compare and contrast them across languages, and this will emphasize
commonalities across cultures in the conceptualization of
emotions. Evidence to support this claim is provided through analyses
of the metaphor of anger as ''pressure in a container'' (p. 118) in
different languages.

CHAPTER 6, ''What's Special About Figurative Language in Emotional
Communic ation?'' by Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., John S. Leggitt and
Elizabeth A. Turner, explores the pragmatic value of figurative
language in the communication of emotions. It is argued that metaphors
are not only more effective than literal language in expressing subtle
meanings and intensity of emotions, but that they are also better able
to trigger emotional reactions in listeners. The results of studies
carried out by this team of researchers are summarized to support
this claim. The role of irony in conveying shades of emotional
content is also discussed.

CHAPTER 7, ''Conflict, Coherence, and Change in Brief Psychotherapy: A
Metaphor Theme Analysis'' by Lynne Angus and Yifaht Korman, deals with
metaphors used by clients during psychotherapy sessions to discuss
depression and conflict in relationships. In particular, this chapter
discusses the results of a study in which transcriptions of
client-centered sessions were found to reveal changes in the selection
of metaphors, and it is suggested that this could index developments
in the client's conceptualizations of their experiences and,
therefore, therapeutic change.

In CHAPTER 8, ''Conventional Metaphors for Depression'', Linda
M. McMullen and John B. Conway outline the evolution of the
conceptualization of depression over the last few centuries, as
reflected in figurative expressions. Through analyses of metaphors
employed by clients in psychotherapy sessions, the authors conclude
that the modern metaphor of depression as ''descent'' has strong
negative connotations that are rooted in Western culture. It is
suggested that developing and awareness of the underlying ''network of
associations'' (p. 179) of this metaphor represents a fundamental step
towards the successful treatment of clients suffering from depression.

PART III, ''Social and Cultural Dimensions'', comprises four chapters
whose main focus is placed on the practice of sharing emotions in
interaction.

CHAPTER 9, ''Emotion, Verbal Expression, and the Social Sharing of
Emotion' ', by Bernard Rim�, Susanna Corsini, and Gw�nola Herbette, is
a review of studies conducted by this team of researchers on the drive
to share one's emotions with others. Evidence gathered through a
variety of research met hods is presented to support the claim that in
60% of cases, emotions are indeed shared with significant relations on
the same day they are experienced. The data presented further
suggests that this claim holds true regardless of individual or
cultural differences, although with some variation concerning sharing
modalities.

In CHAPTER 10, ''The Language of Fear: The Communication of Intergroup
Attitudes in Conversations About HIV and AIDS'', Jeffrey Pittam and
Cynthia Gallois report on their study investigating fear-related terms
used by young Australians to discuss issues pertaining to ADIS and
HIV. The results of content analyses point to differences in word
choice based on context, so that ''fear'' and ''scare/scary'' were
most often selected in relation to global contexts, whereas ''shock''
and ''concern'' were preferred when discussing scenarios involving
close friends becoming HIV positive.

CHAPTER 11, by Lara Honos-Webb, Linda M. Endres, Ayesha Shaikh,
Elizabeth A . Harrik, James A. Lani, Lynne M. Knobloch-Fedders,
Michael Surko and William B. Stiles, is titled ''Rewards and Risks of
Exploring Negative Emotion: An Assimilation Model Account''. The
chapter opens with an introduction to the assimilation model, which
accounts for developments in clients' mental representation of their
experiences throughout the process of psychotherapy. The model is then
applied to data collected during therapy sessions, to illustrate how,
on the one hand, encouraging clients to share their feelings about
negative experiences can be beneficial, while, on the other hand,
asking people to deal with negative emotions without the necessary
support for these issues to be resolved can have serious detrimental
effects.

CHAPTER 12, ''Blocking Emotions: The Face of Resistance'', by Kathleen
W. Ferrara, concludes the book by exploring clients' reluctance to
discuss negative emotions during psychotherapy. Through discourse
analysis of therapy sessions, Ferrara identifies indirect requests by
therapists as more likely to result in put offs by clients, while it
is suggested that a balance between indirect and direct requests could
be more effective in achieving client compliance. The implication is
that, by identifying signals of resistance and by contrasting these
tendencies through appropriate selection of linguistic means,
therapists can become more effective in the treatment of their
clients.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

The interdisciplinary nature of this book is certainly one of its
strongest points, as it allows readers to access research in a variety
of areas that may be complementary to their own interests but that
would otherwise remain outside their selection of readings. Similarly,
novice researchers reading this book will receive an excellent
introduction to a number of salient issues in emotion research.

On the other hand, the variety of themes and approaches presented in
thees says can also be seen as a limitation in the sense that the
focus of the book may appear excessively broad at times. Personally,
although I did find all essays interesting, I must admit that I was
definitely attracted more to those that were closer to my own
interests. For example, I felt that too much emphasis was given to
figurative language in the communication of emotions and to studies
conducted in the context of psychotherapy. I would have liked to see
more studies on interactions in everyday settings, especially from a
cross-cultural perspective. The choice of focusing on verbal
communication alone, although argued convincingly by Fussell in the
introductory chapter, also felt rather restrictive, especially in
light of the observations made by Planalp and Knie in Chapter
3. However, these remarks say more about the reviewer's personal
preferences than about the merits of the book . Overall, this would be
a valuable addition to any emotion researcher's library.

REFERENCES

Goddard , C. & Wierzbicka, A. (Eds.) 1994. Semantic and lexical
universals - Theory and empirical findings. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:
John Benjamins.

O'Keefe, B. J. (1988). The logic of message design: Individual
differences in reasoning about communication. Communication
Monographs, 55, 80-103.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Antonella Strambi recently completed a doctoral programme at the
University of Sydney (Australia), before becoming a Lecturer in
Italian language and culture at Flinders University. Her research
interests have been mainly in the area of second language learning and
teaching methodology, with a particular focus on the use of
information and communication technology for pedagogical
purposes. More recently, however, she has been involved in several
projects investigating emotion display and self-disclosure from a
cross-cultural perspective.
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