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Literary Conventions and the Human Body: The use of bodily expressions for states of mind

Journal article
Authors Göran Kjellmer
Published in Applied Semiotics
Volume 22
Issue 2
Pages 1-25
ISSN 1204-6140
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 1-25
Language en
Subject categories Communication Studies, Specific Languages


Changes in speakers’ states of mind are often reflected in their facial expressions or bodily movements. The relation between a physical expression and the state of mind that goes with it is often firmly established and conventionalised. Writers can make use of such correlations and indicate without having to describe them what emotions and sensations their characters experience by referring to their physical actions. The paper is concerned with unintentional and perhaps unconscious com­municative manifestations and discusses the degree to which they have become conventionalised. A list of bodily expressions and their corresponding states of mind is drawn up, and illustrative material is supplied from two large language corpora.

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