Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Words about emotions, part 4

[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 4. Go to Part 3

Words derived from emotion in English and Spanish

In an earlier section (§55.1.4) we saw that Spanish had derived the verb emocionar and the adjective emocionate from the noun emoción, both of which were related to the ‘excitement’ sense that the word emoción has, not the other sense that it shares with Eng. emotion. In this section we are going to look at two adjectives found in both English and Spanish as cognates which are related to their respective nouns: Eng. emotional ~ Sp. emocional and Eng. emotive ~ Sp. emotivo/a.

The English adjective emotional was derived in English in the early 19th century out of the noun emotion by addition of the Latinate suffix ‑al that forms adjectives. It is first attested in 1821, with the meaning ‘related to or having to do with emotions’. A couple more senses were added to this word later on, namely the sense ‘characterized by or arousing intense feeling: an emotional speech’ (COED) and, when used in reference to people, a third sense that can be defined as ‘emotionally affected; upset’, as in He got all emotional (COED).  The French cognate of Eng. emotional, namely émotionnel (fem. émotionnelle), is not attested until 1875, so it is quite likely that it was a calque from the English word. The Spanish cognate emocional does not appear in a dictionary until 1917 and it is quite likely a calque from either English or French.

The English adjective emotive, pronounced [əˈmoʊ̯ɾɪv] or [əˈmoʊ̯ɾɪv] ([ᵻˈmə̯ʊtɪv] in the UK), is much less common and it seems to have been also created in English first, out of the stem emot‑ of noun emotion and the Latinate suffix ‑ive that also produces adjectives. Although there is an example of a noun emotive from 1596, the adjective emotive with something close to its current meaning is from the first half of the 19th century. Its French cognate émotif (fem. émotive) is first attested in the second half of the 19th century (1877) and Sp. emotivo/a does not appear in a dictionary until 1917 (in the DRAE in 1925), so it is quite likely that the two latter words are ultimate loans from English too.

The meaning of Eng. emotive is primarily ‘arousing intense feeling: animal experimentation is an emotive subject’, which makes it a synonym of the second sense of the word emotional that we just saw. Some dictionaries mention other senses. Many dictionaries give a sense for this word that is like the first sense of the word emotional, namely ‘of or relating to the emotions’ (MWC, no example given).  This same dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, renders the ‘arousing’ sense as ‘appealing to or expressing emotion’ (MWC). Again, because this is a fancy or rare word, there seems to be variation as to how it is used, even by the people who do use it.

1. related to emotion(s)
2. arousing emotions (~ emotive)
3. aroused/affected by emotions

1. arousing emotions
(2. related to emotion(s) ?)

Although the English adjectives emotional and emotive have cognates in Spanish, which may very well be both loans from English, Sp. emocional and emotivo/a are not always necessarily the best translations of Eng. emotional and emotive, respectively, though some bilingual dictionaries say they are equivalent without fully explaining the differences.  Sp. emocional can mean ‘relating to emotions’, just like Eng. emotional, as in the phrase estado emocional ‘emotional state’. Dictionaries differ as to whether Sp. emocional has the two other senses that we just saw of Eng. emotional. Some do not mention such senses, such as María Moliner’s dictionary. Others say Sp. emocional has sense #3 above, such as the Academies’ DLE, which give ‘sensitive to emotions’ (‘sensible a las emociones’) as the second sense of emocional, which it says is a synonym of emotivo (see below). Clave is another dictionary that gives this second sense of emocional (‘Que se deja llevar por las emociones’), giving the example: Es una persona muy emocional, y a veces no se puede controlar ‘He is a very emotional person and sometimes he cannot control himself’. The Vox dictionary, on the other hand, gives sense #2 as the (only) second sense of the word emocional: ‘that produces or tends to produce emotion’ (‘Que produce emoción o tiende a hacerlo: una película emocional’).

As for the adjective emotivo/a, all Spanish dictionaries agree that it has three senses, namely basically the three senses we just saw that Eng. emotional has, though there is little doubt the two words are not equivalent or good translations of each other. Dictionaries tell us that Eng. emotive translates into Spanish as emotivo/a. As for Sp. emotivo/a, one dictionary, Vox, tells us that it can be translated either as emotional when referring to a person (sense #3 of emotional), as moving or touching when referring to an act (sense #2), and as emotive, stirring, rousing (sense #2) when referring to words. Other dictionaries, however, differ somewhat as to the exact translations of Sp. emotivo/a in different contexts. This is probably due to there being some variation in how this word is used in Spanish, variation which may be dialectal and perhaps at least in part due to the influence of how the cognates of this word are used in other languages, such as English.

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