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Article

Corpus Methods in Pragmatics: The Case of English and Russian Emotions

Intercultural PragmaticsIntercultural Pragmatics. 2013. Vol. 10. No. 4. P. 533-568.

The present paper is a comparative corpus study of the verbal expression of emotional etiquette in American English and Russian. The study is conducted against the backdrop of certain assumptions regarding the cross-cultural centrality and marginality of emotions as formulated in the current research on cross-cultural pragmatics. The paper employs corpus-based methods to test the frequencies of the linguistic expression of different types of emotions in Russian and American English as encountered in diagnostic contexts of first-person reporting. Contrary to many currently-accepted theories, the present study demonstrates no absolute prevalence of positive or ethical over negative or non-ethical emotions in Russian or American English. It also disproves certain more specific claims (the predominance of ‘pity’ in Russian), while confirming others (prominence of ‘shame’ in Russian). Certain tendencies in emotional etiquette lean toward cross-cultural universality (e.g., ‘gratitude’ as the most frequently expressed emotion), while others differ. Overall, Russian speakers tend to report more passive negative emotions (‘fear’), while English speakers prefer reporting active negative emotions (‘anger’). Russian speakers are more “self-deprecating” than English speakers, as they favor expressing ‘shame’ over ‘pride’. At the same time, they show less empathy with the addressee, reporting more ‘contempt’-like and less ‘pity’-like emotions. The results obtained in this study can be useful for understanding and formulating culturally-specific pragmatic peculiarities and hence preferred conversational strategies in the two languages.