The Peculiarity of Emotional Words: A Grounded Approach

Claudia Mazzuca, Laura Barca, Anna Maria Borghi


Abstract: This work focuses on emotional concepts. We define concepts as patterns of neural activation that re-enact a given external or internal experience, for example the interoceptive experience related to fear. Concepts are mediated and expressed through words. In the following, we will use “words” to refer to word meanings, assuming that words mediate underlying concepts. Since emotional concepts and the words that mediate them are less related to the physical environment than concrete ones, at first sight they might be depicted as abstract concepts. Evidence coming from several studies shows, instead, that the issue is more complex. In this work, we will briefly outline the debate and illustrate results from recent studies on comprehension of concrete, emotional and abstract words in children and adults. We will argue that emotional words can be accounted for from a grounded perspective and will contend that emotional words represent a particular set of words that differs from both the concrete and purely abstract ones.

Keywords: Embodied and Grounded Cognition; Abstract Concepts; Emotional Words; Language Acquisition; Language Processing


La peculiarità delle parole emotive: un approccio basato sulla grounded cognition

Riassunto: Questo lavoro si incentra sui concetti emotivi. Intendiamo qui per concetti i pattern di attivazioni neurali che riattivano un’esperienza interna o esterna, per esempio le esperienze interocettive collegate alla paura. I concetti sono mediati ed espressi dalle parole. Di seguito, useremo “parole” in riferimento al significato delle parole, assumendo le parole come veicolo dei concetti. I concetti emotivi e le parole che li esprimono, dal momento che sono meno legati all’ambiente fisico rispetto a quelli concreti, potrebbero essere a tutta prima classificati come concetti astratti. Molti studi invece mostrano come la questione sia più complessa. In questo lavoro illustreremo brevemente il dibattito e i risultati di recenti studi sulla comprensione di parole astratte, concrete ed emotive in bambini e adulti, per mostrare come una prospettiva grounded possa rendere conto delle parole emotive, sostenendo che queste rappresentano un insieme particolare di parole, diverse sia da quelle concrete che da quelle puramente astratte.

Parole chiave: Embodied and Grounded Cognition; Concetti astratti; Parole emotive; Acquisizione del linguaggio; Processamento del linguaggio


Embodied and Grounded Cognition; Abstract Concepts; Emotional Words; Language Acquisition; Language Processing

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