Why Pasta Boils but Anger Doesn't: A Cross-Linguistic Study of Italian Verbs and Emotions
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDespite the large amount of research on Italian syntax, I have identified one phenomenon not accounted for in current literature. In English, emotions are typically expressed using verbs mapped onto basic, universal elements (fire, air, and water). I hypothesized this was due to the intangibility, and thus ambiguous, nature of emotions and the universality of basic elements, rendering them easily recognized. By mapping verbs associated with basic, tangible elements onto abstract, intangible emotions, the speaker guarantees a higher level of understanding from the listener. The universality of the elements suggested this could be a method adopted in all languages. However, upon examining Italian, I found this was not the case. Italian uses a different method of expressing emotions: agency. Italian raises the agency of emotions to the level ordinarily reserved for humans. After comparing Italian data with Spanish, I determined this was not a feature of the Romance language family, and was instead a characteristic of Italian. This thesis explores features of Italian syntax and why they cannot explain this phenomenon. It is a cross-linguistic study comparing primarily English and Italian data, supplemented with some Spanish data gathered from an informant.
Degree ProgramHonors College