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N°13 – Lexicon, Sensations, Perceptions and Emotions

Deadline for sending in final versions of papers: February 1st 2019

The e-journal Lexis is planning to publish its 13th issue devoted to “Lexicon, Sensations, Perceptions and Emotions” in 2019.

Co-editors: Stéphanie Béligon (Paris-Sorbonne University), Valérie Bourdier (University Paris-Est Créteil) Rémi Digonnet (Jean Monnet University – Saint-Étienne) & Christelle Lacassain-Lagoin (University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour).

Lexicon, Sensations, Perceptions and Emotions

Sensations, perceptions and emotions have been the occasion of a number of studies, dealing with, for instance, verbs of perception (see Franckel [2004], Gisborne [2010], Khalifa & Miller [2010], Lacassain-Lagoin [2007] and [2012], Mérillou [2013], Miller [2008], Paulin [2003] and Wierzbicka [2010]), nouns and adjectives of feeling (see Anscombre [1995] and [1996], Novakova & Tutin [2009], Whitt [2010], or Wierzbicka [1999]) or with the metaphors relating to one or the other of those domains (see Augustyn & Bouchoueva [2009] and Digonnet [2016]). Few authors, however, have examined the linguistic phenomena – in particular the lexical phenomena – liable to shed light on the links between sensations, perceptions and emotions. This, then, is the subject to which the next issue of Lexis will be devoted.

Sensation can be defined as “[a] physical feeling; a mental state resulting from a stimulus operating on any of the senses or from a condition of part of the body.” (OED) A sensation is triggered by the experiencer’s environment and gives rise to a perception, which corresponds to the way individuals process the stimuli they receive (the noun perception designates, according to The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED), “the neurophysiological processes including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli”); affects can result from that perception (a pleasant/unpleasant sensation/smell). This sequence appears to be tripartite inasmuch as it combines the environment, the body and the mind, as well as affects.

For that reason, sensation is reminiscent of emotion, regarded as “an agitation of mind; an excited mental state. […] any strong mental or instinctive feeling, as pleasure, grief, hope, fear, etc., deriving esp. from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationship with others.” (OED). Both sensation and emotion involve the experiencer’s body and seem to serve the same end, i.e. the individual’s survival and adaptation to his/her environment. The same holds for perception, which “enables us to know our environment through the detection of information guiding our gestures, movements and our interactions with other human beings. That knowledge serves our adaptive needs. […] The sensory receptors of the perceptive systems (sense organs, musculoskeletal system and cortex), at the interface of the body and the environment, allow these energies to be sensed. The sensory systems capable of movement draw from those energies the information, i.e. the properties of the environment, which are relevant to our intentions.” [Luyat 2014: 21 our translation].

As for emotions, Damasio [1999: 116-117] considers that they belong to the “regulatory mechanisms ensur[ing] survival” as they “can engage […] an instinctual behavior pattern, or a newly created action plan.”

The lexicon of sensations, perceptions and emotions reflects the strong links between those phenomena. The English verb feel refers to sensations, to the sense of touch and proprioception, and to emotions. In French, the verb sentir is connected with the sense of smell while its derivations se sentir or ressentir can designate emotions. The metaphors expressing emotions are often based on perceptions or bodily reactions: see red, be light-hearted, be in a cold sweat. Conversely, the metaphors expressing sensations sometimes allude to emotions: a cheerful colour, a sad melody, a lovely smell.

Sensations, perceptions and emotions are characterized by a succession of more or less conscious physiological reactions triggered by interaction with the environment; however, sensation seems to precede perception as a sensation can cause a perception or emotion (that strong smell got her attention, that sweet melody soothed him). Emotion, on the other hand, appears to follow on from perception (he looks miserable, that melody made him sad). However, this tripartite chronology sensation-perception-emotion is called into question by discourse when a sensation or perception is characterized by its effect (a pleasant smell, a deafening noise, a soothing colour, etc.) or an emotion by its source (angry with life, pleasure of giving, anguish at the thought of leaving, etc.).

Perception is a more complex process than sensation, as it includes sensation in a meaningful and comprehensive form or gestalt organised by the experiencer (as contended by Gestalt psychology or Merleau-Ponty), for instance. Perception can be situated at the interface of the sensory, emotional and cognitive domains. It is of interest to note that Talmy [2000: 139-140] adopts the notion of “ception” to establish a cognitive domain encompassing “all the cognitive phenomena, conscious and unconscious, understood by the conjunction of perception and conception. […] [C]eption would include the processing of sensory stimulation, mental imagery, and currently experienced thought and affect.”

The lexicon appears to afford a privileged access to these questions, which can be examined from different angles. The purpose of Lexis #13 is to study the lexemes in question, but also the syntax of those lexemes and the metaphors at play. There follows a non-exhaustive list of questions which could be envisaged:

What sensations, what perceptions and what emotions? Are there specific lexemes used to express each of these phenomena? Are some sensory modalities provided with a lexicon that is richer and more varied than others? If so, how can this be accounted for and what conclusions can be drawn from that disparity?

What discursive indicators can be used to determine the specific meaning of a lexeme referring to sensations, perceptions and emotions? Is the co-text a capital or a secondary element in the meaning conveyed by a lexeme?

Are there clear-cut boundaries between the lexicon of the domains of sensations, perceptions and emotions? Do some lexemes refer to all three domains? How can they be represented semantically?

Is it possible to discern recurrent patterns in the polysemy of the lexicon of sensations, perceptions and emotions, in particular from a contrastive perspective? For that matter, is polysemy or homonymy the most adequate concept in that case?

From a diachronic viewpoint, is the evolution of the lexemes expressing sensations, perceptions and emotions comparable?

From a methodological point of view, how can one go about studying the lexicon of sensations, perceptions and emotions? What types of corpora do linguists can resort to? What investigation techniques need to be developed (corpus linguistics, clinical research, quantitative approach, etc.)? What difficulties does NLP encounter with those lexemes? How can they be overcome?

What is the link between linguistics and neuroscience? To what extent can linguistic analysis rely on neuroscientific research? Conversely, how can neuroscience benefit from linguistic research? Does the lexical field under scrutiny give rise to a clinical approach? What would its stakes and applications be?


Anscombre Jean-Claude, 1995, « Morphologie et représentation événementielle : le cas des noms de sentiment et d’attitude », Langue française, n°105, 40-54.

Anscombre Jean-Claude, 1996, « Noms de sentiment, noms d’attitude et noms abstraits », Les noms abstraits : histoire et théorie, Coll. Sens et structures, Villeneuve D’Ascq, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 257-273.

Augustyn Madgalena & Bouchoueva Ekaterina, 2009, « Les collocations métaphoriques des noms de colère en français, russe et polonais », in Novakova Iva & Tutin Agnès (éds.), Le Lexique des émotions, 191-205.

Anzieu Didier, 1995, Le Moi-peau, Paris, Dunod.

Béligon Stéphanie, 2017, « Sense et feeling : l’expérience du sentiment », Signifiances (Signifying), n°1, vol. 2, 55-71.

Celle Agnès & Lansari Laure, 2014, « ‘Are you surprised?’ / ‘I’m not surprised’. Surprise as an argumentation tool in verbal interaction », in Blumenthal P., Novakova I. & Siepmann D. (éds.), Les émotions dans le discours. Emotions in discourse, Peter Lang, 267-280.

Celle Agnès, Jugnet Anne, Lansari Laure & L’Hôte Emilie, 2017, « Expressing and Describing surprise », in Celle A. & Lansari L. (éds). Expressing and Describing Surprise, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 215-244.

Damasio Antonio r., 2010, L’Autre moi-même – Les nouvelles cartes du cerveau, de la conscience et des émotions, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Damasio Antonio r., 2005, Spinoza avait raison. Joie et tristesse, le cerveau des émotions, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Damasio Antonio r., 1999, Le Sentiment même de soi : corps, émotions, conscience, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Damasio Antonio r., 1995, L’Erreur de Descartes : la raison des émotions, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Digonnet Rémi, 2016, Métaphore et olfaction : une approche cognitive, Paris, Champion.

Franckel Jean-Jacques, 2004, « Sentir / sens », Linx [En ligne], 50.

Franckel Jean-Jacques & Lebaud Daniel, 1995, « Les échappées du verbe sentir », Langues et langages. Problème et raisonnement en linguistique. Mélanges offerts à Antoine Culioli, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 261-277.

Franckel Jean-Jacques & Lebaud Daniel, 1990, Les figures du sujet. À propos des verbes de perception, sentiment, connaissance, Paris, Ophrys.

Gisborne Nikolas, 2010, The Event Structure of Perception Verbs, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Lacassain-Lagoin Christelle, 2012, « It’s not what it looks to be! : Déconnexion entre forme et sens dans les énoncés avec verbe de perception à emploi dit “copule” », E-rea, 9.2.

Lacassain-Lagoin Christelle, 2007, La complémentation des verbes de perception en anglais contemporain : formes et sens des comptes rendus de perception directe et indirecte, Thèse, Université de Pau.

Khalifa Jean-Charles & Philip Miller (éds.), 2010, Perception et structures linguistiques. Huit études sur l’anglais. Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Luyat Marion, 2014, La Perception, Paris, Dunot.

Mérillou Catherine, 2013, « Éprouver un sentiment en français, en italien et en anglais : étude comparée des verbes sentir, sentire et feel », in Chuquet H., Nita R. & Valetopoulos F., Des sentiments au point de vue, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 41-59.

Miller Philip, 2008, « Prédication et évidentialité : de l’emploi copule des verbes de perception », Faits de langue, La prédication, n° 31-32, 253-262.

Novakova Iva & Tutin Agnès (éds.), 2009, Le Lexique des émotions, ELLUG, Université Stendhal, Grenoble.

Paulin Catherine, 2003, « Polysémie et complémentation verbale : le verbe feel dans tous ses états », in Delmas C. (éd.), Correct, incorrect en linguistique anglaise, C.I.E.R.E.C., Travaux 113, Saint-Étienne, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 129-155.

Paulin Catherine, 2005, « De feel à sentir, estimer, croire », in Lebaud D. (éd.), Actes du Colloque « D’une langue à l’autre », Besançon, 5-6-7 septembre 2002, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 179-195.

Talmy Leonard, 2000, Towards a Cognitive Semantics. Vol. I. Concept Structuring Systems, Cambridge, Mass./London, The MIT Press.

Whitt Richard, 2010, Evidentiality and Perception Verbs in English and German, Bern, Peter Lang.

Wierzbicka Anna, 2010, Experience, Evidence, and Sense. The Hidden Cultural History of English, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Wierzbicka Anna, 1999, Emotions across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals, Cambridge University Press, 63-64.

How to submit

Please clearly indicate the title of the paper and include an abstract of no more than 5,000 characters as well as a list of relevant key-words and references. All abstract and paper submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed (double-blind peer reviewing) by an international scientific committee composed of specialists in their fields. Papers will be written preferably in English or occasionally in French.

Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such. There is no limit to the number of pages.

Abstracts and articles will be sent via email to


March 2018: call for papers

July 10th 2018: deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis

September 2018: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors

November 1st 2018: deadline for sending in papers

November and December 2018: proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee

January 2019: authors’ corrections

February 1st 2019: deadline for sending in final versions of papers

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