How language, culture and emotions shape the mind

Electronic versions


  • Ceri Ellis


The influence of language on thought has been a fervent topic of philosophical and empirical debate for over half a century (see Wolff & Holmes, 2010, for a review). Recent advances in neuroscientific methods have enabled researchers to show that language influences perception and thought from the earliest stages of stimulus processing, even when the task is apparently dissociated from linguistic processes (c.f.Thierry, Athanasopoulos, Wiggett, Dering, & Kuipers, 2009; Boutonnet,Athanasopoulos, & Thierry, 2012; Boutonnet, McClain, & Thierry, 2014; Athanasopoulos et al., 2015). The purpose of the current thesis is to extend this investigation to specifically focus on the impact of culture-specific conceptual representations and linguistic context on semantic processing and affective biases. To this end, the thesis comprises four empirical studies in which we assess how each language possessed by bilinguals relates to their semantic cultural knowledge. Thus, this thesis seeks to establish (i) whether a particular link exists between native language and semantic knowledge concerning the native culture (Chapter 3); and (ii) the nature of this link, with a specific emphasis on long-term, immutable emotional associations (Chapter 4) and short-term, ephemeral emotional states (Chapter 6). I also examine the specificity of the language-culture link as a property of language status in the bilingual mind (Chapter 5). To summarize the findings in advance, I show that bilinguals’ languages diverge when processing information that is specifically related to the native culture. The findings also indicate – via our emotional manipulation – a fundamental difference in processing style between the two languages. Whereas the second language (L2) is characterized by a more rational processing style, the first language (L1) has a greater tendency to bias. Moreover, the particular language-culture link only appears to exist when the native language is not only strongly associated with the native culture, but when it is also the bilingual’s dominant language. Overall, the work presented in this thesis provides novel evidence for the effect of language, culture, and emotions on cognition, even at the level of semantic knowledge.


Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Sefydliad dyfarnu
Goruchwylydd / Goruchwylwyr / Cynghorydd
Noddwyr traethodau hir
  • Coleg Cymraeg Cendlaethol
Dyddiad dyfarnuIon 2016