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List of Affect and Emotion Terms in 5 languages


One of the problems in intercultural research is the correct translation of the affect or emotion terms used. Since many of these terms have somewhat different denotational and connotational meaning in different languages, there is no satisfactory solution to the problem.
The following list of affect descriptors in five Indo-European languages is a byproduct of the research activities of a team of psychologists from many different countries that ran a series of intercultural questionnaire studies, involving free responses of emotional experiences. No claim is made for the exhaustiveness of the list or for the affect status of specific terms. Opinions may also vary on whether a particular term in a particular language is the best possible rendering of the meaning of the terms in the other languages. In fact, in revising the list it became clear that it was impossible to find labels with exactly equivalent meanings across all languages – in many cases a choice needed to be made as to which language was to serve as reference. Most importantly, while there is obviously much overlap in the meanings, in some languages, especially in French and Italian, many essentially "correct" translations also have very strong additional connotations, being normally disambiguated by the context. Therefore this list should not be seen as definitive but rather as a convenient starting point for the elaboration of more sophisticated multilingual dictionaries of affective meaning. Indeed, the discussion about the similarities and differences in meaning of these terms across languages may call into question the very idea of a small number of universal basic emotions, at least with respect to the conceptualization of emotion in language.





Scherer, K. R., Wallbott, H. G., & Summerfield, A. B. (Eds). (1986). Experiencing emotion : A cross-cultural study. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.


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