Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

A Review on Meanings of Emotions: Steps to a Neural-Informational Notion of Semantics

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

A Review on Meanings of Emotions: Steps to a Neural-Informational Notion of Semantics

Article excerpt

The story of studying meaning goes back to the time of Socrates and Plato and has continued so far to be debated with much deliberation and, naturally, with different perspectives (Gasparri & Marconi, 2015; Cruse, 1986). Geeraerts (2010) has, for example, categorized the studies on sèmantics into two major perspectives. Lexical semantics is the first linguistic perspective discussing the meaning-word relationship. This perspective explores meaning via pre-structuralist, structuralist and neostructuralist, generativist, neogenerativist, and cognitive approaches to semantics. Following these approaches, many existing studies have looked at how emotional words are constructed and perceived in the linguistic and cultural context (Wierzbicka, 1992, 1999; Kleinginna, 1981; Lindquist, 2006). Psycholinguistic approaches encompass the second perspective on semantic research. These approaches investigate how the human mind comprehends, produces, and acquires word meanings. There are also studies following this perspective that search how emotional objects, events and concepts are represented and processed in the human brain (Warglien, 2013).

The differentiation or commonality of interest between lexical semantics and psychology of language is probably controversial. The current analytical review, however, does not seek to argue which of the mentioned approaches, or combinations between them, is most appropriate to adopt when studying emotional semantics. It is neither a look into how human agents generate structure or on different expressions of emotional lexical entity (in communication or mind; Johnson-Laird, 1983)1. Rather, this is an interdisciplinary analysis of a theory proposing that emotional concrete terms, which articulate behavior or cognitive tasks between a sender and a receiver, need to implement a constructive form of reference in the brain in order to conceptualize the communicated meanings. This approach is significant because it can connect our understanding of emotional meanings to their sources either in the brain of the perceivers or in their environment.

The analysis unfolds in three phases. The first phase brings the philosophical ideas into the era of emotional words semantics. This section highlights the flaws of such approaches from an epistemological viewpoint. In this phase, the emotional terms references are discussed by means of semantic realism. It will be shown that there is always a need for a real emotional entity to be circumscribed by a relevant term. Then, the review analyses the cognitive perspective of semantics. In this section, psychological salience such as facial expression or vocal cues is interrogated for meanings. However, it will be argued that such cues are insufficient to describe the meaning of emotional terms, and that they cannot be the matter of references of meanings. In the final section, it is argued that, even though an emotional arousal is observable, an emotional term could not receive a meaning if the essence of its referent does not determine something at a physiological level (Gärdenfors, 2007). Finally, the last section proposes that semantics of emotional words is an informational link from a 'thing' taking place in the world (e.g., associated with a behavior or an object) to a 'something' taking place in the brain.

1. Emotional Terms in Higher Ordered Semantics

While the lexical and psycholinguistic approaches of semantics deal with the modeling concerns of meaning, meta-semantics explains the nature of linguistic representation of emotional words from a higher standpoint. This adjunct semantics domain generally seeks to ground a foundation explaining how our semantic knowledge of emotions is created. For this purpose, different theories of meta-semantics aimed to explore whether the relationship between meaning and truth of communicated affective words are immaterial, mental representations, or cognitive states (Pustejovsky & Boguraev, 1997). …

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