Surprised? why? the expression of surprise in French and in English
an experimental approach
The psycholinguistic research reported in this paper posits a chaining of cognitive phases typical of any surprise episode and the inter-relatedness of emotional and rationalizing linguistic features. An experimental approach has been used to explore the reasons why the presentation of aesthetic visual "sources'- a series of works of art- can trigger surprise reactions, hence the title: Surprised? Why? Although surprise is spontaneously expressed and described in fragmented, disorganized, apparently haphazard verbal forms, we have attempted to reconstruct the cognitive scripts underlying the discourse of surprise, by focusing on linguistic manifestations of disconnection, emotional response and adjustment, as three main phases of the cognitive schema of surprise. This work-in-progress is based on 25 recordings and transcripts of spontaneous reactions and emotive self-reports by French and English monolinguals, bilinguals and advanced learners of English. It is part of a larger corpus under completion at University Paris-Diderot, France, within the framework of Surprise, a Vector for Enlarged Cognition, an interdisciplinary project funded by the Research National Agency (French ANR). The study aims at uncovering invariant and variable psycholinguistic features in the surprise discourse of native and non-native speakers of English and French.
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