Filling the emotion gap in linguistic theory: Commentary on Potts' expressive dimension

Timothy Jay 1 , 1  and Kristin Janschewitz 2 , 2
  • 1 Dept. of Psychology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
  • 2 Dept. of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles.


We begin with Potts' concluding remarks: “… this paper is by no means the final word on the expressive dimension.” Certainly more work on expressives is necessary if linguistic theory is to address the role of word emotionality in language. No theory will be complete until we do so, and Potts' efforts to move the field in this direction are commendable. A more comprehensive understanding of why and how people use emotional and offensive language will make Potts' theory more complete. Scholars who study offensive expressives need to be familiar with research about why people curse and why they choose the particular words they do. We first address how and why, then we review Potts' work in the context of psycholinguistic research on taboo words.

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Theoretical Linguistics is an open peer review journal. Each issue contains one long target article about a topic of general linguistic interest, together with several shorter reactions, comments and reflections on it. With this format, the journal aims to stimulate discussion in linguistics and adjacent fields of study, in particular across schools of different theoretical orientations.