The referential structure of the affective lexicon

Andrew Ortony*, Gerald L. Clore, Mark A. Foss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

267 Scopus citations


A set of approximately 500 words taken from the literature on emotion was examined. The overall goal was to develop a comprehensive taxonomy of the affective lexicon, with special attention being devoted to the isolation of terms that refer to emotions. Within the taxonomy we propose, the best examples of emotion terms appear to be those that (a) refer to internal, mental conditions as opposed to physical or external ones, (b) are clear cases of stares, and (c) have affect as opposed to behavior or cognition as a predominant (rather than incidental) referential focus. Relaxing one or another of these constraints yields poorer examples or nonexamples of emotions; however, this gradedness is not taken as evidence that emotions necessarily defy classical definition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-364
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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