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The emotional weight of "I love you" in multilinguals' languages

By Jean-Marc Dewaele


The present paper considers the perceived emotional weight of the phrase I love you in multilinguals’ different languages. The sample consists of 1459 adult multilinguals speaking a total of 77 different first languages. They filled out an on-line questionnaire with open and closed questions linked to language behavior and emotions. Feedback on the open question related to perceived emotional weight of the phrase I love you in the multilinguals’ different languages was recoded in three categories: it being strongest in (1) the first language (L1), (2) the first language and a foreign language, and (3) a foreign language (LX).\ud A majority of speakers felt I love you was strongest in their L1. Participants offered various explanations for their perception. Statistical analyses revealed that the perception of weight of the phrase I love you was associated with self-perceived language dominance, context of acquisition of the L2, age of onset of learning the L2, degree of socialization in the L2, nature of the network of interlocutors in the L2, and self-perceived oral proficiency in the L2

Topics: alc
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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