Language and Emotion

  • Niall Bond
  • Victor Ginsburgh


In this chapter we explore language and emotion from the vantage of an intellectual historian and conference interpreter — with three active working languages (in order of acquisition, English, German and French) and a smattering of other Romance languages — and the vantage of a multilingual economist who was raised in his early years in German (and some Swahili) and went on to work in English and French. We focus primarily on the emotional implications of thinking and expressing oneself in more than one language. Reflection on the effect that knowledge of more than one language may have on the emotions leads to the recognition that possessing several languages can offer and impose occasions to perceive of and describe emotional states with a different precision and more varied nuances of meaning than knowing a single language. Thought processes that are conveyed by languages are triggered by and trigger emotions. The ultimate values to which the most rational thought processes are subjected are irrational and often emotional. As researchers and thinkers, we are called upon to write and think in languages and linguistic cultures with differing rules as to what is of interest, what can be said and what should be censored. Where might the abilities and handicaps of a polyglot with regard to emotion lie? One of the first human experiences is that passions, concupiscent and irascible, as Thomas Hobbes expressed it, are socially regulated. And when one moves from one community to another, one realizes that the regulations of such emotions are not identical.


Native Language Linguistic Diversity Mother Tongue Short Story German Language 
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© Niall Bond and Victor Ginsburgh 2016

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  • Niall Bond
  • Victor Ginsburgh

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