It's not just cognition: The effect of emotion on multiple-level discourse processing in second-language writing

Arlene Clachar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The second language (L2) writing curriculum now advocates the inclusion of issues directly relevant to linguistic minority students' lives. Topics such as affirmative action, racial and ethnic discrimination, the controversy surrounding bilingual education, etc., have, therefore, been in ascendancy. Inherent in such topics is an emotional locus. However, to date, there exists no empirical research which has tested the validity of the general belief that such topics of an emotional nature do, in fact, facilitate the L2 writing process. Motivation to investigate the effect of emotion on L2 writing behaviors came from an examination of the neuropsychological literature on emotion which submits that a neurological structure in the brain, the amygdala, is principally responsible for emotional computations, and is believed to project to and from the neocortex and hippocampus in order in order to mediate information and memory processing specifically associated with the significance of an emotional stimulus. Extrapolating from these postulations, this study investigated whether information and memory processing associated with an emotional topic would lead to distinct processing behaviors in L2 writing. Results indicated that the emotional topic motivated students to focus on the lower, lexicomorphosyntactic level of discourse processing during planning and composing, but led them to attend to the higher pragmatic and textual levels during revision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-60
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999


  • Discourse analysis
  • Education
  • Emotions
  • Encoding (cognitive process)
  • Second language learning
  • Writing processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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