Rosanna TramutoliResearch Assistant, Literatures in African Languages

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The codification of emotions in Swahili: a cognitive linguistic analysis with a consideration of the socio-cultural context


My research project focuses on a linguistic description of emotional expressions in Swahili. Cross-linguistically, it has been shown that emotions are coded with various linguistic strategies. For Africa, the codification of emotions has rather been studied for West African languages, whereas there are rather few studies on Eastern African languages, Bantu languages in particular. This study describes how emotional concepts, such as ‘love’ and ‘anger’, are codified in Swahili, in order to highlight recurring semantic and syntactic patterns. The research seeks to answer a number of questions, such as, which emotional lexical items have Bantu origin and which come from Arabic? Which metaphorical expressions/cognitive schemas does Swahili use to codify emotions (e.g. ‘love’, ‘anger’, ‘happiness’)? Which body terms are involved as ‘containers/locus of emotions’? Which experiential constructions does Swahili use to encode emotions and feelings?
Starting from the cognitive approach on metaphors by Lakoff & Johnson (1980), the research aims at highlighting the relationship between language, culture and conceptualization, considering the specific Swahili cultural context in which metaphors of emotions are created and used. In particular, considering the practice of Swahili traditional medicine (uganga), the study highlights Swahili bodily conceptualizations (body parts, bodily liquids, and physiological reactions) which are involved in the description of emotions and personal traits. For instance, a recent study on the semantic description of Swahili body terminology has demonstrated that moyo (heart), has a prominent role being conceptualized as the seat of numerous emotional states and it has several metaphorical meanings (e.g. love, generosity, will).
Data are collected mostly through literary corpus analysis, but also through interviews with Swahili native speakers and participant observation during fieldwork conducted in Tanzania (Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar).



Swahili Language and Linguistics, Bantu languages, Anthropological Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Politeness strategies, Semantics, Lexicography, Corpus Linguistics, Language teaching.



Since November 2014 Double PhD program at University of Naples "L'Orientale" (Italy) and the University of Bayreuth (Germany)
Since February 2016 Swahili Language Instructor for Intensive Courses at the University of Bayreuth
Oct 2013-Mar 2015 Swahili Lecturer at the University of Bayreuth
2013 MA Degree in Comparative Literatures –Swahili and French, at the University of Naples "L'Orientale." Thesis on Swahili body terminology
2012 MA Degree in African Linguistics at Leiden University. Thesis on Giing’aweakshooda: a register of respect among Barbaig (Datooga) speakers of Tanzania
2010 BA Degree in Comparative Languages and Literatures – Swahili and French, at the University of Naples "L'Orientale." Thesis on Swahili linguistic terminology



2016 Umenijaa moyoni: cultural metaphors of emotions in Swahili.
First International Conference of Cultural Linguistics, Prato (Italy)
2016 Unataka kunipanda kichwani ? (‘Do you want to climb on my head’?): expressions of emotions in Swahili. International Conference of Spoken Communication (GSCP), University of Naples “L’Orientale” and University of Naples “Federico II” (Italy)
2015 Describing emotions in Swahili: expressions of ‘love’ through a corpus-based analysis.
28th Swahili Colloquium, University of Bayreuth.
2014 The codification of emotions and body metaphors in Swahili: ‘head’ and ‘heart’ as prominent examples. 21st Afrikanistentag, University of Bayreuth
2013 Swahili body terminology: a linguistic analysis. Research Colloquium, University of Bayreuth
2013 Swahili body parts and the codification of emotions. International Conference CROSSROADS: Languages in (e)motions. University “L’Orientale” of Naples (Italy)
2013 Translating Swahili linguistic terminology into Italian. 26th Swahili Colloquium, Bayreuth.

2015 LEXICOM Workshop in Lexicography, Corpus Linguistics, and Lexical Computing, Telč, Czech Republic
2015 Workshop MorphÉm -L’encodage morphologique des émotions à travers les langues, Université Lyon 2
2012 International Summer School in Language Documentation and Description (Lyon)



Tramutoli, Rosanna (2016) “Joto lilimpanda:” Metaphors of emotions in Swahili literary texts. Research in African Literatures. Special Issue on “Reading Closely – Linguistic Dissections of African Language Literatures.” (forthcoming).
Tramutoli, Rosanna (2015). ‘Love’ encoding in Swahili: a semantic description through a corpus-based analysis. Swahili Forum 22: 72-103.
Tramutoli, Rosanna (2015) Kamusi ya isimu Kiswahili – Kiitaliano (Glossario linguistico swahili-italiano), Dar es Salaam: TUKI (forthcoming).
Tramutoli, Rosanna, Bosire, Fredrick (2014). "Jipe moyo!”: ‘heart’ expressions in Swahili emotional vocabulary. In Crossroads: Languages in (e)motion. Ed. by Landolfi, Liliana. Napoli: University Press, 99-103.

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