Encoding emotions in Kuni, an oceanic language of Papua New Guinea

Alan Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Languages encode emotions in a wide variety of ways. The ways often vary between languages or between language areas, but the present paper shows that, even within a single language, different emotions may be obligatorily encoded in quite different ways. Thus, in Kuni, an Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea, certain emotions are encoded exclusively as monolexemic verbs, while others are represented, equally exclusively, by figurative noun-verb predications. Emotions of the latter type tend to be more richly lexicalized than those represented monolexemically, usually with alternative encodings available to speakers. In between these two contrasting categories lie two important emotions, love and anger, which can be encoded in either of the above ways. Using a 4,000-word mission dictionary dated 1937 as my corpus, I identify four sets of emotions on purely formal grounds, illustrating each set in turn. I then discuss the process of lexification (or univerbation) whereby some figurative predications were transformed into compound predicates and nouns. Finally, I speculate as to the sociocultural and interactional implications for speakers of the different possibilities for encoding emotion types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalOceanic Linguistics
Volume59
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© by University of Hawai’i Press.

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • linguistics
  • emotion
  • Papua New Guinea
  • communication

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