Linguistics Major Sylvia Cohen presents research on Twi

Sylvia Cohen, '22, presented "Emotions and the Body in Twi" at the 16th Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Conference on April 24. This research grew out of the fieldwork conducted on the Twi language with WWU student Rosia Aning in Dr. Viriginia Dawson's Field Methods class winter quarter. Cohen also presenting this work at Western's 2022 Scholars Week.

Abstract: ​My poster examines how body nouns are used to express emotions in the Ghanaian language Asante Twi. Invoking terminology from a concrete domain like the body to explain a more abstract domain like emotional experience is a common occurrence across languages. In Twi, one finds metaphoric expressions that house emotion in a specific body part (anger in the chest, for instance) and also 'ho' phrases which place the entirety of one's body in the subject position as the one enacting or experiencing emotional states such as wellness, annoyance, and sickness. I make some comparisons between Twi and other languages’ techniques for emotional expression and comment on the semantic implications of these Twi constructions in which the body or body part, rather than the individual, occupies the subject position. The poster also examines a pair of nesting constructions which can be used to retake one’s syntactic agency, reclaiming the subject position for the individual. Many thanks to Dr. Dawson and the LING402 Field Methods class who helped gather the data used in this analysis and to Rosia Aning for providing all that Twi language data as well as invaluable insights into the language.

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