TOWARDS EMOTION RECOGNITION IN TEXTS – A SOUND-SYMBOLIC EXPERIMENT
The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between the phonetic content of prose texts in English and the emotion that the texts inspire, namely - the effect of vowel-consonant bi-phones on subjects’ evaluation of positive or negative emotional valence when reading. The methodology is based on data from an experiment where the participants, native speakers of three different languages, evaluated the valence invoked in them by one-page texts from English books. The sub-lexical level of the texts was obtained using phonetic transcriptions of the words and their further decomposition into vowel-consonant bi-phones. The statistical investigation relies on density-measures of the investigated bi-phones over each text as a whole. The result shows that there exists a correlation between the obtained sub-lexical representation and the valence perceived by the readers. Concerning the type of the consonants in the bi-phones (abrupt or sonorant), the influence of the abrupt bi-phones is stronger. However, sub-sets of both types of bi-phones showed relatedness with the emotional valence conveyed by the texts. In conclusion, the speech, expressed in written form, is laden with emotional valence even when the words’ lexicological meaning is not taken into consideration and the words are apprehended as mere phonetic constructs. This prompts hypothesizing that words’ semantics itself is partly underpinned by some mental emotion-related level of conceptualization, influenced by sounds. For practical purposes, the result suggests that based on the syllabic content of a text it should be possible to predict the valence that the text would inspire in its readers.
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