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Bilingualism and affectivity in reading (201)

Taking a cross-language perspective, we investigate the specific encoding and connotations of specific emotional contents in different languages and their implications for the language related emotion processing of bilingual individuals.

In order to establish the common grounds and to contrast differences with regard to the emotional connotations of lexical material, we collected rating values for emotional variables (valence, arousal, imageability, concreteness and familiarity) for more than 6.000 words in German, English and Spanish. These normative databases serve to extract the stimulus material for experimental studies investigating

a) possible differences in the processing of emotional material between first and second language, and

b) the way bilinguals deal with specific contents differing in emotional relevance across different languages – especially when cultural differences come into play.

With ongoing experimental work, the focus is to be extended to more complex structures, such as sentences, idioms and proverbs.

The cross-language approach of this project, as well as the principle of working with bilingual participant populations (including experimental comparisons between early bilinguals and late second language learners) should enable us to investigate basic questions as to which extent the proprieties of a given language can shape the way we process and express emotions.

We employ classical methods of experimental psychology as ratings and measuring of response latencies or physiological parameters (skin conductance level/response; heart rate; muscular activity). Furthermore, the project has a special focus in neuroscientific research using the methods of electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


Marina Arzola, G.M., Recio, G., Jacobs, A .M., Conrad, M. (2011, Im Druck). Is personality modulated by language?. International Journal of Bilingualism.

Conrad, M., Recio, G., Jacobs, A.M. (2011). The time course of emotion effects in first and second language processing: A cross cultural ERP study with German-Spanish bilinguals. Front. Psychology 2:351. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00351.