The perception and restructuring of emotion by bi-multilinguals in Spanish and English

  1. Pérez García, Elisa
Supervised by:
  1. Ana María Manzanas Calvo Director
  2. María Jesús Sánchez Manzano Co-director

Defence university: Universidad de Salamanca

Fecha de defensa: 24 November 2020

  1. Rosa María Jiménez Catalán Chair
  2. Ramiro Durán Martínez Secretary
  3. Joana Salazar Noguera Committee member

Type: Thesis


The communication of emotions through verbal and non-verbal channels is a natural human process and a vital part of sociopragmatic competence in language. Learning to perceive and express them may pose an enormous challenge to bi-multilingual individuals due to, among other reasons, major cross-linguistic and cross-cultural differences in the understanding of emotion and its conceptualisation. The present research focuses on and explores the perception of emotion by bi- multilinguals with Spanish and English in their linguistic repertoire. It examines the complex variation that exists in this perceptual ability across bi-multilingual populations as a result of individual differences in their sociobiographical, linguistic, and acculturation-based profiles. In addition, this study addresses the semantic-conceptual representation of emotion lexical concepts in first (L1s) and additional languages (LXs) and the extent to which they restructure in the bi-multilinguals’ mind. For this purpose, a total sample of 384 bi-multilinguals around the world participated in an online bilingual questionnaire, designed to collect quantitative and qualitative information on the variables under study. Emotion, elicited through two different channels— verbal (emotion words) and visual (emotional video clips)—was specifically measured by a two-dimensional semantic map: valence and arousal. The results from the statistical analyses, which were supported by participants’ stories on emotional experiences in their various languages, show that the correct semantic-affective development of emotion words in LXs is linked mainly to linguistic factors like language proficiency level, frequency of use, context of acquisition, migrant condition, and therefore, having lived in the LX country. Nevertheless, the perception of purely visual and emotional stimuli proves to be independent of bi-multilinguals’ linguistic trajectories and much more cross-linguistically and cross-culturally similar.