In December 2013 I completed a PhD diploma in Linguistics, under the supervision of Pr Nicholas Evans, Linguistics, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. The thesis is now published as a volume. The thesis is entitled:
The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia) – John Benjamins, 2014
(Based on The language of emotions in Dalabon (Northern Australia) – PhD, ANU, 2013)
In these volumes, I document and analyze the linguistic devices available to Dalabon speakers to express or describe emotions. Expressive devices include diminutives, interjections, and various prosodic features. Descriptive features consist mostly of a wealth of lexical devices. While expressive features are prominent in terms of frequency, and relate to culturally-central categories, the Dalabon emotion lexicon is also very large, numbering at least 160 lexemes, most of them adjectives or verbs. A lot of them are morphologically compound, often involving a body-part. After discussing the semantics, morphology and syntax of these lexemes, I question the linguistic association between body-parts and emotions in Dalabon.
Like most languages in the world (and like many Australian languages in particular) Dalabon uses metaphors grounded in physical and physiological metonymies in order to describe emotions (like in English: ‘I’m broken-hearted’ means ‘I’m very sad’). I discuss which metonymies and metaphors are at play in Dalabon, how speakers interpret them, and whether they are culturally specific. Another question is whether these metaphors may be constrained by some of the semantic and grammatical features of Dalabon, and if so, which ones.
While metaphors are an important and interesting aspect of the linguistic relation between emotions and body-parts in Dalabon, they are not the only thing body-parts ‘do’ in the Dalabon emotion lexicon. I describe various other processes of lexical production, having little to do with metaphors, and yet leading to close linguistic associations between body-parts and emotions.