DOI: 10.5176/2251-1865_CBP17.14

Authors: Elsie Ong, Samara Hussain, Yvonne Chow, and Catherine Thompson

Abstract: Past research suggests that the emotional content of words has greater impact when presented in a bilingual’s first language (L1) compared to their second language (L2). This is predicted to be a consequence of automatic processing of emotional words in L1 compared to slower, semantic processing in L2. In the current study 58 Chinese-English bilinguals from Hong Kong rated the valence and arousal of positive, neutral, and negative words presented in Chinese (L1) and English (L2). In contrast to predictions, perceived emotionality of the words was higher in L2, with positive words rated more positively and negative words rated more negatively when presented in English compared to Chinese. The findings suggest that words presented in L2 did not have lower emotional impact than L1, the results indicate that emotional processing of words may be influenced by language proficiency and language complexity.

Keywords: valence, arousal, language processing, bilinguals, emotion.

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