More than words: An emotion concept in the absence of a lexical category.

[Speaker] Sauter, Disa:1
[Co-author] Le Guen, Olivier:2, Majid, Asifa:3
1:University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), 2:CIESAS, México D.F. (Mexico), 3:Radboud University (Netherlands)

Emotion words are often used as a way to study the underlying concepts of emotions. However, if concepts do not in fact map directly onto concepts it should be possible to have a concept of an emotion without knowing a word for that emotion. Here we present a study examining speakers of Yucatec Maya, a language that lacks a word for the emotion disgust. We show that Yucatec Maya speakers (n=20), despite having no word for it, have a conceptual category of disgust, as shown by their performance on a nonverbal task probing concepts: q-sorting of photographs of emotional facial expressions. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed a structure whereby Yucatec Maya participants differentiated disgust from other emotions. We conclude that the conceptual structure of emotions is independent of linguistic categories, and so caution should be exercised in inferring underlying concepts from single terms.
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