Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Professor Ma

Reader 2

Professor Brogan

Reader 3

Professor Groscup

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Rights Information

© 2020 Maya Cohrssen-Hernandez


Previous literature has identified a difference in emotion comprehension and production of bilinguals. This study aimed to explore differences in emotion expression in the first language (L1) and the second language (L2) among Spanish and English bilinguals. The bilingual participants were interviewed and asked to recount two frustrating events, one in their L1 and one in their L2. These interviews were analyzed for the occurrence of four semantic categories: emotion words (with a subcategory of negative emotion words), emotion-laden words, expressive interjections, and intensifiers that strengthen content words. The data indicated that Spanish and English bilinguals both used more emotion words and emotion-laden words in English than in Spanish. For negative emotion, native English speakers again used this feature more in their L1 than their L2, whereas native Spanish speakers showed no difference between languages. Expressive interjections and intensifiers that strengthen content words were not significantly different across the predictor variables. I propose several explanations for the results: that participants may have differed in their L2 proficiency, where native Spanish speakers had a better command of their L2 than native English speakers with their L2. Additionally, it is possible that native Spanish speakers showed a large percentage of their emotions in their body language (e.g., facial expressions, hand gestures). These findings may contribute to areas where emotion is often expressed, such as the realm of mental health. In particular, insight into the relationship to language and emotion could better inform therapy-based interventions for bilingual clients. For instance, strategic language switching during a session could facilitate clients’ emotion regulations and their disclosures. Future research is needed to explore these avenues of inquiry.