"Really?”, "Good gracious!", "Are you kidding?", or "What a shame!". What do all these expressions have in common? Any one of them might be heard as a response to information a person hears.
Upon hearing interesting or unexpected news we don’t usually think before responding. Words simply rush out of our mouth and announce our initial feelings. These emotions could include some of the following: astonishment, happiness, confusion, embarrassment, frustration, and skepticism.
These expressions, often used unconsciously to express our emotions, belong loosely to a subcategory of speech called interjections. Interjections and particles can be used alone, in phrases, and with varying intonation. They may lack etymological origins but they are packed with meaning.
This project is designed to investigate different ways of expressing emotions, often that of surprise, heard as an initial response to unexpected information. As we gather data we will be able to build a catalog of “words and expressions of surprise” and we will attempt to describe their grammatical properties.
During this project we’ll find out how the meanings of emotional words are shaped. Interjections are pretty simple to investigate as they are the most common ones used in spontaneous exclamations. Wow, yikes, hurrah, tut-tut – these simple sounds can express a range of emotions: from excitement to condemnation. They often do not have a literal lexical meaning; in other words, the word(s) used do not directly describe or refer to an object or an idea.
There are, however, some interjections that do have a lexical definition (ie. really?, gracious!). As you can see, in these expressions the literal meaning isquite insignificant. The primary function is that of expressing emotion.
This same pattern can be seen with multiple word expressions; the focus shifts from literal meaning to one of spontaneous reaction. For example, the exclamation “I’m speechless!” does not mean you really lost the ability to speak. And the expression “What a score!” can be used when there is no score at all.
Let’s find out the connection between the literal meaning of these words of surprise and the emotions behind them. This discovery will help us see the connection between language and our thoughts and emotions.
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