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Journal Article

Measuring the basic affective tone of poems via phonological saliency and iconicity


Kraxenberger,  Maria       
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Aryani, A., Kraxenberger, M., Ullrich, S., Jacobs, A. M., & Conrad, M. (2016). Measuring the basic affective tone of poems via phonological saliency and iconicity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(2), 191-204. doi:10.1037/aca0000033.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-3154-B
We investigate the relation between general affective meaning and the use of particular phonological segments in poems, presenting a novel quantitative measure to assess the basic affective tone of a text based on foregrounded phonological units and their iconic affective properties. The novel method is applied to the volume of German poems “verteidigung der wölfe” (defense of the wolves) by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who categorized these 57 poems as friendly, sad, or spiteful. Our approach examines the relation between the phonological inventory of the texts to both the author’s affective categorization and readers’ perception of the poems—assessed by a survey study. Categorical comparisons of basic affective tone reveal significant differences between the 3 groups of poems in accordance with the labels given by the author as well as with the affective rating scores given by readers. Using multiple regression, we show our sublexical measures of basic affective tone to account for a considerable part of variance (9.5%−20%) of ratings on different emotion scales. We interpret this finding as evidence that the iconic properties of foregrounded phonological units contribute significantly to the poems’ emotional perception—potentially reflecting an intentional use of phonology by the author. Our approach represents a first independent statistical quantification of the basic affective tone of texts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)