«Eating Regret and Seeing Contempt» – A Cognitive Linguistic Approach to the Language of Emotions in Igala (Nigeria)

by Lillian Brise (Author)
©2017 Thesis XVII, 113 Pages


This book deals with the expression of emotions in Igala – a Nigerian minority language with about two million speakers – from a Cognitive Linguistics perspective. The author investigates the network of the Igala language of emotions using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) framework as developed by Anna Wierzbicka and her collaborators. The claims of adequacy of NSM in its present form for the analysis of emotion concepts universally will be challenged. This is due to the way emotions are conceptualized in the Igala language and due to the absence of certain semantic primes which are considered necessary for the analysis of emotions.Therefore, this study presents a testing ground for further development of the framework as well as a peek into research in African languages.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of contents
  • List of abbreviations
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Chapter One: Background to the Study
  • 1.1 An overview of Cognitive Linguistics (CL)
  • 1.1.1 A gestalt psychology-based strand
  • 1.1.2 Phenomenology-based CL: Cognitive Semantics
  • 1.1.3 Cognitive Discourse Research
  • 1.1.4 Cognitive Sociolinguistics
  • 1.1.5 Cognitive Psycholinguistics
  • 1.1.6 Cognitive Phonology (CP)
  • The phoneme
  • The content requirements of CP
  • 1.2 Methods in Cognitive Linguistics
  • 1.2.1 Introspection
  • 1.2.2 Empirical methods
  • 1.3 Methodology for this study
  • 1.4 Significance of the study
  • 1.5 Research aims
  • Chapter Two: Previous Research on Emotions and State of the Field
  • 2.1 Affect, feelings, cognition and emotions
  • 2.2 The development of the scientific study of emotions
  • 2.3 Classification of emotions
  • 2.4 Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)
  • Chapter Three: Data Presentation and Analysis
  • 3.1 The language situation in Nigeria
  • 3.2 The Igala language
  • 3.2.1 Igala consonants
  • 3.2.2 Igala vowels
  • 3.2.3 Igala tones
  • 3.2.4 Igala syllable structure
  • 3.2.5 Aspects of Igala morphophonological structure
  • 3.3 NSM revisited
  • 3.4 The Igala exponents of the primes
  • 3.4.1 Mental predicates: THINK, KNOW, WANT, FEEL
  • 3.5 How to “feel” in Igala
  • 3.5.1 Polysemy
  • 3.5.2 Conceptual metaphors
  • 3.5.3 Cognate object constructions (CoC’s)
  • 3.6 The case for polysemous perception/sensory verbs
  • 3.7 The case for body part terms
  • 3.8 An overview of Igala emotion concepts
  • 3.9 The lexical aspects of Igala language of emotions
  • 3.9.1 Happiness-like emotions
  • 3.9.2 Love-like emotions
  • 3.9.3 Fear-like emotions
  • 3.9.4 Disgust-like emotions
  • 3.9.5 Anger-like emotions
  • 3.9.6 Sadness-like emotions
  • 3.9.7 Shame-like emotions
  • 3.9.8 Hate-like emotions
  • 3.10 Phonological aspects of Igala language of emotions
  • 3.11 Pejorative expressions and profanity in Igala
  • 3.11.1 Change in tonal pattern and pitch variation
  • 3.12 Interjections and Ideophones
  • 3.12.1 Features of interjections: vowel lengthening, gemination, reduplication/repetition
  • 3.12.2 Ideophones
  • 3.13 Reduplication and repetition
  • Chapter Four: Summary and Outlook
  • References
  • Series Index

| xiii →

List of abbreviations

| xv →

List of figures

Figure 1.1: Cognition

Figure 1.2: Schema activation

Figure 3.1: The Igala vowel chart

Figure 4.1: The network of emotions in Igala

| xvii →

List of tables

Table 3.1: The Igala consonant chart

Table 3.2: The Igala vowels

Table 3.3: Tonal dominance in Igala

Table 3.4: Semantic primes in English and Igala

Table 3.5: Igala emotion concepts

| 1 →

Chapter One

Background to the Study


Interest in the relationship between language and emotion is found across several disciplines and fields of study – psychology, sociology, cultural studies, psychiatry, anthropology, linguistics and more. This multi-disciplinary interest has led to many comparative studies and cross-cultural research aimed at studying the phenomenon of emotions from multiple perspectives. Most studies within the “cognitive” paradigm presuppose that experiential, conceptual and linguistic factors all play related roles in the expression and perception of emotions (cf. Ogarkova 2013: 46). This assumption shapes the methods and approaches used in the analyses of emotions by researchers from the different fields of the Cognitive Linguistics paradigm. The main trends in the study of emotions in Cognitive Linguistics currently include the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), Conceptual Metaphor and Metonymy Theory (CMT), Frame and Prototype Semantics. Below is a brief overview of the emergence and development of CL.

1.1 An overview of Cognitive Linguistics (CL)

Cognitive Linguistics may be said to be one of the fastest growing fields in 21st century linguistics with a rapidly growing metalinguistic terminology, body of proponents and increasing recognition. However, no discussion of the establishment of the field would be complete without mentioning the work of Noam Chomsky, incidentally an opponent of CL, and the indirect influence of his work on the founding of cognitive linguistics.

Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures (1957) could be said to have sparked renewed interest in mentalism in linguistics. His Generative Grammar advocated the presence of a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) in humans, drawing an analogy between human language abilities and a mental organ. This device is credited with possessing a Universal Grammar which is innate to all humans and from which individual languages select their unique repertoire of linguistic choices (parameters). The development of the LAD is described as being independent of other aspects of cognitive development and it is simply described as a device activated at birth barring any physiological defect. The goal ← 1 | 2 → was to describe the mental structures responsible for acceptable, grammatical sentences. His focus was therefore on syntactic knowledge, the role of meaning was downplayed as he demonstrated using his oft-quoted example Colorless green ideas sleep furiously (Syntactic Structures (1957)). He asserted that the fact that speakers of the English language would agree to the grammaticality of this sentence shows that it cannot be reduced to meaning. Chomsky characterizes the linguistic ability possessed by language users by using two distinctions: competence refers to the linguistic knowledge a speaker possesses while performance is the application of this knowledge in actual speech.

According to Geeraerts and Cuyckens (2007), Chomsky’s distinction between competence and performance may appear to have bridged a gap created by Saussure’s (1916) langue and parole dichotomy. Saussure proposed the notion of a grammar based on langue and parole. Langue has a community-shared, social aspect, parole is an individual psychological process whereby a speaker combines elements selected from langue. Chomsky introduces the knowledge factor to account for how this exercise is accomplished by the speaker. Geeraerts and Cuyckens (2007) note that while this basic difference may appear to have introduced a third element into the equation, leading to a trichotomy, in reality Chomsky created a new dichotomy:


XVII, 113
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (July)
NSM/semantic primes Cognitive Linguistics polysemy conceptual metaphor cognate object Nigerian linguistics
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 113, XVII pp., 4 b/w ill., 5 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Lillian Brise (Author)

Lillian Brise studied English and English Linguistics at the Ahmadu Bello University and the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) respectively. She also received a doctorate degree in Linguistics from the University of Ibadan. Lillian Brise worked as a guest lecturer at the University of Vechta (Germany) and as a researcher and contract lecturer of English Linguistics at the University of Koblenz-Landau (Germany).


Title: «Eating Regret and Seeing Contempt» – A Cognitive Linguistic Approach to the Language of Emotions in Igala (Nigeria)
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140 pages