Monday, January 13, 2020

Words about emotions, part 2

[This entry is taken from Chapter 55, "Words about emotions in English and Spanish", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

This is Part 2. Go to Part 1

Origins of the word emotion and its cognates

The story of the origins of the words Eng. emotion and Sp. emoción are not totally transparent. Eng. emotion appears in the second half of the 16th century with the meaning ‘political agitation, civil unrest; a public commotion or uprising’ (OED), a meaning that is now obsolete. Later in the century, it acquired two other senses, which are also obsolete now: ‘[disordered] movement; disturbance, perturbation; an instance of this’ and ‘a movement from one place to another; a migration’ (OED). However, by the early 17th century, the word was being used with meanings that are much more recognizable. One was ‘an agitation of mind; an excited mental state’, from which came the main meaning the word has today: ‘any strong mental or instinctive feeling, as pleasure, grief, hope, fear, etc., deriving esp. from one's circumstances, mood, or relationship with others’ (OED). Typically, the word emotion is used in contrast with reason, the assumption being that the two are at odds with each other. Thus, the OED gives us another sense for this word also from the early 17th century for the use of the word as a mass noun: ‘strong feelings, passion; (more generally) instinctive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge’ (OED).

The English word emotion, pronounced either [əˈmoʊ̯ʃən] or [iˈmoʊ̯ʃən], seems to have been borrowed from Middle French. The French source word was spelled either esmocionesmotion, or emotion (Modern French émotion) and its meaning went through very similar changes to those its English cognate went through: from ‘civil unrest, public commotion’ (1429), to ‘agitation of mind, excited mental state’ (1475), to ‘movement, disturbance’ (1498) and finally, ‘strong feelings, passion’ (1580) (OED).

One might be forgiven for thinking that French got this word from Latin, since a Latin noun ēmŏtĭo is attested in Late Latin, though it was very rare. However, it is now thought that French derived this noun from the patrimonial verb esmouvoir by analogy with the noun motion, a loanword, which is related to the patrimonial verb mouvoir ‘to move’. As we just said, there was a Latin noun ēmŏtĭo, but it was not used until well after the classical period and then, only rarely, and it doesn’t seem to have been the source of the French word. The Latin noun ēmŏtĭo was occasionally used in post-classical Latin with a meaning like ‘displacement’ (lit. ‘a moving out’), and the expression emotio mentis is also attested with the meaning ‘mental derangement’ (lit. ‘displacement of the mind’). The Latin noun
ēmŏtĭo (accusative case: ēmŏtĭōnem) is a regular derivation from the stem ēmŏtof the passive participle ēmŏtus of the verb ēmŏvēre ‘to move out’, a verb derived by prefixation from the more basic verb mŏvēre ‘to move’, the source of Sp. mover and Eng. move, by means of the prefix ē, a variant of the prefix ex‑ ‘out of’. The Latin noun, ēmŏtĭo, however, which would have meant literally ‘a moving out’, was not used in Classical Latin and it was derived much later and in a very limited context. Because this was a rare Late Latin word and because of the differences in their meanings, it is now thought that the French word was not borrowed from Latin but was actually put together in French when looking for a noun to go along with the patrimonial verb esmouvoir.

Note that Spanish never inherited, or borrowed, the derived Latin verb ēmŏvēre ‘to move out, move away, remove’ (L&S). French,  however, had a patrimonial version of that Latin verb, which evolved into Old Fr. esmouvoir we mentioned earlier. This verb is thought to have come from a Vulgar Latin version of this verb, namely *exmovere. Old French esmouvoir (also spelled esmovoir or esmoveir) had come to mean ‘to move’ both in the physical sense and in the emotional sense, much like English move can be used with both senses (unlike its Spanish cognate mover). In Modern French, émouvoir means ‘to move or touch’ but only in the emotional sense, not the physical one.

We know that in the 13th century, Old French borrowed the noun mocion from Classical Lat. mŏtĭo ‘motion’ (acc. mŏtĭōnem), a regular, common noun derived in Latin from the verb mŏvēre, the source of the patrimonial French verb mouvoir ‘to move’ (and patrimonial Sp. mover and loaned Eng. move). This Latin noun was derived regularly from the stem mōtof the passive participle mōtus ‘moved’ of the verb mŏvēre ‘to move’ (mōt‑ĭōn‑em). The Old French noun mocion (Mod. Fr. motion [moˈsjɔ̃]) was borrowed by English in the late 14th century.

Clearly, the Old French borrowed noun mocion was semantically tied to the patrimonial verb mouvoir, and we now think that French developed the noun esmocion as a companion to the verb esmouvoir by analogy with the other pair of words, according to the following equation:


The X here is obviously esmocion, the ancestor of Modern French émotion and its cognates in English and Spanish.

Just like English borrowed the word emotion from French, Sp. emoción [ˈθi̯on] is also obviously a loanword from that language, although dictionaries such as the Academies’ DLE and María Moliner’s dictionary (MM) tell us simply that the word comes from Latin. The Vox and Clave Spanish dictionaries, on the other hand, are more honest and do say that emoción was borrowed from French.

Sp. emoción is first attested in 1580 (OED), a couple of decades after its English cognate is attested. It first appeared in a dictionary in 1604, in the Diccionario muy copioso de la lengua española y francesa by Juan Palet, although it did not make it into the DRAE until 1843, so it must not have been a word in common use in the 17th and 18th centuries (DIRAE).

The expansion of the meaning of Eng. emotion and Sp. emoción

Although the word emotion and its cognates in French and Spanish were being used with something close to its meaning in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century, around the time the word appears for the first time in the DLE, that it became a common word in these languages, used to refer to things that until then might have gone by different names, such as passions or feelings. If in the middle of the 17th century, these words could be used to refer to (certain) strong feelings, by the early 19th century it had the sense it has today to refer to a much larger range of feelings, many of which are not particularly strong in any way, shape or form.

Today there are many theories and classifications of emotions, beyond the basic and prototypical ones that a common person would recognize as emotion, such as an anger or fear. The complexity of the matter is well captured by the introduction to the topic in Wikipedia:
Emotion is a mental state associated with the nervous system brought on by chemical changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure. There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation.
The series on emotions in Wikipedia lists the following topics, not all of which might be classified as emotions by a regular person. This is the complete list: acceptance, affection, amusement, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, cruelty, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, ecstasy, embarrassment, empathy, enthusiasm, envy, euphoria, fear, frustration, gratification, gratitude, greed, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, humiliation, interest, jealousy, joy, kindness, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, rejection, remorse, resentment, sadness, saudade, schadenfreude, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, social connection, sorrow, suffering, surprise, trust, wonder, and worry.[i]

As we can see, there is a great variety of emotions in the modern sense of the word, well beyond the more ‘basic’ and strong ones that the term was used for earlier, such as fear and anger, the ones that can be more easily recognize by facial expressions  for instance. We will look at some of these terms below, in particular terms that have Spanish cognates.

Speaking of facial expressions and emotions, there has been much interest in this topic since the 19th century. In 1872, Charles Darwin published one of the first books on the subject, titled The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.[ii] Darwin’s contention was that all humans, but also other animals, show emotion by means of very similar behaviors and expressions, something that he attributed to shared evolution. Some of Darwin’s contemporaries argued that there were as many as 60 different facial expressions associated with emotions but Darwin himself thought that there were only basic emotions—such as anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness and sadness—were universally associated with facial expressions.




Table 210: Facial expressions that express emotions are thought to be universal to a great extent.[iii]

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