Emotion Talk in Ilokano

Essay by yori87College, Undergraduate July 2009

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ABSTRACTThe purpose of this paper is to describe the ways emotions are expressed in Ilokano. It takes into account the grammatical categories emotion roots are derived and the types of clauses they are incorporated into. Through these methods, the author aims to give a general description of the concept of emotion in Ilokano.

1.0 IntroductionUnderstanding human psyche has been man’s top priority even before the birth of psychology. In an attempt to make sense of everything inside and around him, man used different tools and approaches.

Language, being an overt and accessible part of man, was not overlooked. It became a powerful tool in man’s pursuit of understanding himself and the world. Noam Chomsky (1968, p.84) even said, “...the study of language may very well… provide a remarkably favorable perspective for the study of human mental processes.” Different aspects of these mental processes had been the subject of research for a number of social scientists, from past to present.

One of these is emotion. Though a universal description of emotion is still lacking up to date, the following are the definitions compiled by the author. Emotion is“…a feeling state involving thoughts, physiological changes, and an outward expression or behavior.”(Psychology 101: Emotion, 2004)“a powerful feeling; a complex state of body and mind involving, in its bodily aspect, changes in the viscera (main internal organs) and in facial expression and posture, and in its mental aspect, heightened perception, excitement and, sometimes, disturbance of thought and judgment. The urge to action is felt and impulsive behavior may result.”(Emotion (psychology), 2008)From these definitions, the following generalizations can be made.

(1)It is observable.

As Heider (1991) states, “Emotion has both a mental, or cognitive, aspect and a sensory, physiological aspect”. This is through the ways man expresses emotions, both the linguistic and non-linguistic means. It can be a facial expression, gesture, voice pitch and volume, the flow and construction of words, the lexicon chosen, the way the sentences is constructed, etc.

(2)It is a social phenomenon.

As Harre, R. & Parrott, W.G. (1996, p.167) state, “…the stimuli for emotional reactions come from other people and emotion occurs in the company of others.” It usually springs from an event (e.g. an argument) in the life of someone. And in man’s daily interactions, perceiving and understanding these emotions correctly is a crucial and important task because “… the ability to recognize emotions in oneself and those of others leads to a greater degree of positive mental health and well-being” (Altarriba et. al. 2003).

Hence, to be able to achieve this “degree of positive mental health and well-being”, man resorts to properly perceiving the observable aspects of emotion. Emotion talk is one. As Bamberg (unknown) asserts, “Language is a means of making sense of emotions, and as such can be used as a starting point to explore the world of emotions…” Many aspects of emotion talk had been taken into consideration by researchers and students of the social sciences. A lot of them had been concentrated on the diversity of the lexicon for emotions of each culture, with the aim of comparing one from the other (like Russell 1983, Heider, and Altarriba et. al.) Others used lexicon to test if the concept of a certain emotion is the same across cultures. Others studied “the grammar of emotions”. As Malicsi (1981, p.12) states, “What makes grammar an important source of evidence for linguistic relativity and determinism is its obligatory nature – it’s categories have to be produced, its rules followed, and the individual is therefore automatically channeled into certain patterns of expression.” In studying this, people are more concerned on how people express their emotions in discourse. What type of constructions do they use? What conjectures can we raise through these constructions? These are the objectives of this study. It is bent on answering the following questions.

(1)How are emotions expressed in Ilokano?(2)What type of grammatical categories are these emotions usually derived?(3)What type of construction is used (i.e. transitive, intransitive, causative, etc.) in expressing these emotions?In this fashion, the author hopes to convey a part of the Ilokano psyche that may hopefully give a better understanding of the behavior and culture of the Ilokano people.

As a language, Ilokano is rather popular. Belonging to the Cordilleran group of the Northern Philippine subgroup of the Philippine group of the Western Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Malayo-Polynesian subfamily of the Austronesian language family, it has about 20 million speakers (including those who speak the language as a second, third, or foreign language in and outside the Philippines), according to Professor Prescila Espiritu (Agcaoili, 2008). It is the lingua franca of the Northwestern part of Luzon, namely, the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, and Abra. It is also spoken in some parts of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabella, Cagayan, and Benguet. It even has ‘sizeable communities’ in some parts of Mindanao, Palawan, Mindoro and the United States, making it the third largest spoken language in the Philippines, along with Cebuano and Tagalog (Rubino & Garry, 2001).

This research, however, is partial only to the “grammar of emotions”. It shall tackle emotion on a clausal level. It does not aim to list all the emotion terms in Ilokano and define each term. It simply describes the representation of emotions in a syntactic level. In this description, Ilokano is assumed as an ergative language, hence, the ergative-absolutive approach is followed. In this approach, the undergoer (or patient) of a transitive clause is treated in the same way as the single argument of an intransitive clause. The agent of a transitive clause is treated differently.

It can be illustrated through the following sentences.

(1)N-angted -ak iti regalo ken Mike.

INTR-gave -ABS OBL gift DET Mike‘I gave Mike a gift.’(2)Inn-ikan –na -k iti regalo ni Mike.

TR-gave -ERG ABS OBL gift DET Mike‘Mike gave me gifts.’The first construction, which is intransitive, used the first person singular absolutive pronoun –ak as the single core argument. The second sentence used the same pronoun as the patient. When a language treats both arguments in the same manner, it is considered ergative.

Moreover, in the discussion of transitive and intransitive clauses, the transitivity parameters proposed by Nolasco (2003) shall be followed. These parameters are enumerated in the following table.

High TransitivityLow TransitivityA.










No. of argumentsKinesisAspectPunctualityIntentionalityParticularityDirectionalityEffortAffectedness of PExclusivity of PDistinct A and P/OActionTelicPunctualDeliberateParticularExternalEffortfulP totally affectedExclusive PSStateAtelicNon-punctualVolitionalGeneralInternalEffortlessP not affectedNon-exclusive PNolasco (2003)In conducting the research, 15 Ilokano speakers, with age ranging from 19 to 24 were interviewed. Each was asked to list as many emotion terms as they can. Then each was asked to narrate an instance when they felt one of these emotions. This way, the speakers can talk freely about their emotions.

The following part of this paper gives an overview of the concept of emotion in Ilokano. The next gives the analysis of the “grammar of emotions”. The last gives the conjectures taken from the said analysis.

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