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When language gets emotional: irony and the embodiment of affect in discourse

Filik, Ruth; Hunter, Christian Mark; Leuthold, Hartmut


Associate Professor

Christian Mark Hunter

Hartmut Leuthold


Although there is increasing evidence to suggest that language is grounded in perception and action, the relationship between language and emotion is less well understood. We investigate the grounding of language in emotion using a novel approach that examines the relationship between the comprehension of a written discourse and the performance of affect-related motor actions (hand movements towards and away from the body). Results indicate that positively and negatively valenced words presented in context influence motor responses (Experiment 1), whilst valenced words presented in isolation do not (Experiment 3). Furthermore, whether discourse context indicates that an utterance should be interpreted literally or ironically can influence motor responding, suggesting that the grounding of language in emo- tional states can be influenced by discourse-level factors (Experiment 2). In addition, the finding of affect-related motor responses to certain forms of ironic language, but not to non-ironic control sentences, suggests that phrasing a message ironically may influence the emotional response that is elicited.


Filik, R., Hunter, C. M., & Leuthold, H. (2015). When language gets emotional: irony and the embodiment of affect in discourse. Acta Psychologica, 156,

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 4, 2015
Journal Acta Psychologica
Print ISSN 0001-6918
Electronic ISSN 1873-6297
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 156
Keywords Emotion; Language comprehension; Grounded cognition; Irony
Public URL
Publisher URL


Filik, Hunter, & Leuthold 2015.pdf (483 Kb)

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