Institute for Culture and Society

EMOCCC. Cognition, Creativity, and Culture in the Verbal Representation of Emotions


Emotions are a ubiquitous aspect of experience, but they cannot be conceived and expressed in themselves. Due to its complexity, the expression of emotions is necessarily structured through more clearly delineated concepts, such as bodily sensations ("burn with desire") or simple perceptions, such as those related to containers or the motion of objects ("full of anger"). This makes emotion a classical example of a metaphorical concept.

Metaphorical concepts differ between cultures, periods, and discursive genres. At the same time, metaphorical concepts are based on universal connections between mental structures. The discovery of these connections, also known as conceptual projections or mappings, has been one of the major advances in cognitive science and linguistics. Through mappings, the mind projects information from one conceptual domain to another.

EMOCCC studies how affective meanings arise from the interplay of entrenched conceptual templates and ad-hoc creativity. Through a detailed comparison of emotion concepts and their expression across languages and periods, the project seeks to understand how our cognitive capacities for conceptual integrationschema imaging and conceptual framing boost human imagination and reasoning, allowing us to run mental simulations or imagery with a powerful aesthetic and conceptual meaning.

Imaging emotions in Greek poetry and beyond

In its present phase, EMOCCC is carrying out a diachronic study of the poetic expression of selected emotions in Greek poetry, from Homer to the present. The major focus is on novel meanings that blend spatial events (motion, containment, occlusion) with mental entities that go beyond the spatial, such as a scene in which two people interact in typical ways (glancing, talking, gesturing).

The integration of these and other conceptual materials allows poets to suggest novel situations in which feelings become part of "non-emotional" events, such as the emission of light, the throwing of objects, the blocking of a path, entering or exiting places, and many more. By prompting for a variety of mental imagery through figurative language, these texts make complex or novel emotion concepts imageable, thus turning vague or abstract notions about feelings into vivid scenes that can be viewed with the mind's eye.

The twenty-eight centuries of uninterrupted Greek literary tradition offer the biggest field for the diachronic analysis of conceptual templates and creativity in the poetic expression of emotions. EMOCCC will study these patterns and their creative use within a variety of cultural environments, throughout a wide selection of poetic texts in ancient and modern Greek. This study will provide the basis for a large-scale study of the verbal expression of emotions in the main European languages, which will contrast poetic discourse with everyday language. For the comparative study of poetic emotion language across literary traditions, an annotated database will be created. For the analysis of emotion expression in everyday speech, we will use the NewsScape Library of International Television News, developed by the Red Hen Lab for the study of multimodal communication.

Documento sin título


Documento sin título


Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas
BBVA Foundation Award for Early Career Researchers

General contact:
‘Public Discourse' Project, Institute for Culture and Society.
University of Navarra
31009 Pamplona

+34 948 425 600


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