'Feeling the language you speak’. Language and emotion in multilingual contexts

The view that language mediates the world of emotion is widely accepted. In this talk, Ng Bee Chin (NTU, Singapore) addresses the issue of how bilinguals or multilinguals negotiate the emotional worlds of the different languages they speak. Welcome to this open lecture!

Ng Bee Chin (Photo: ntu.edu.sg)

Ng Bee Chin (Photo: ntu.edu.sg)

The view that language mediates the world of emotion has been robustly supported in both observations and empirical investigations. The issue of how bilinguals or multilinguals negotiate the emotional worlds of the different languages they speak is beginning to receive attention though the bulk of the studies focus mainly on crosslinguistic comparisons or on monolinguals.

There is sufficient evidence, however, to point to bilinguals shifting their sociocultural views and expectations when the language they use changes. This is hardly surprising but what remains to be explored is precisely how these views change and whether these changes can be predicted by our current knowledge of emotion research about existing languages.

In this talk I will present the findings from my current study of an emotion corpus in Mandarin Chinese as well as a crosslinguistic comparison of four emotion domains (Anger, Pride, Guilt and Shame). The four groups compared were Mandarin Chinese monolinguals, English monolinguals and two groups of English-Chinese bilinguals with different level of language dominance in Singapore. The participants answered a questionnaire that was customised by researchers in the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences for six UN designated languages.

The findings indicate strong language effects and despite fairly homogenous cultural experience, language use and exposure play a big role in shaping Singaporean bilinguals’ use and understanding of emotion words. This key aspect of the findings challenges the common practice to see same language pair bilinguals as a homogenous bilingual group.

About Ng Bee Chin

Ng Bee Chin (external link) works mainly in the area of bilingualism and multilingualism with a focus on the impact of language contact on individuals and the community they live in. Her research approach is to explore both cognitive and social aspects of language acquisition and use. Currently, she is working on language identity, attitudes and use and language and emotion in multilinguals. She also works in the area of language as a source of intangible heritage with collaborators in art and design studies.

She currently works in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies in Nanyang Technological University. She is also the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Organizer

MultiLing
Published May 11, 2016 3:05 PM - Last modified Sep. 16, 2016 1:22 PM