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Imprisoned in EnglishThe Hazards of English as a Default Language$
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Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199321490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199321490.001.0001

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Human Emotions and English Words: Are Anger and Disgust Universal?

Human Emotions and English Words: Are Anger and Disgust Universal?

(p.68) 7 Human Emotions and English Words: Are Anger and Disgust Universal?
Imprisoned in English

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

A keen interest in human emotions emerged in modern psychology rather suddenly, in the late 1960s and 1970s—and it spread like wildfire to anthropology, sociology, and other human sciences. Since then, the topic has become the subject of intense interdisciplinary debate, which can, with justice, be called “emotion wars.” This chapter surveys the history of these wars. In particular, it discusses the role that the focus on English emotion words has played in the theory of “basic emotions,” which has tended to dominate the field for decades and in many ways continues to do so. The chapter, which builds on the author’s 1999 book Emotions Across Languages and Cultures and many other related publications, argues that English emotion terms embody certain interpretive schemes that are neither unchangeable through times nor constant across different cultures; and it shows how the Anglocentrism still prevalent in the psychology of emotions can be overcome with the help of universal human concepts.

Keywords:   “basic emotions”, emotion wars, Dowrick on depression, Ekman on human emotions, Shweder on cultural psychology, “fear” in English and German, “anger” in English and German, emotional universals

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